Everything you wanted to know about Heart Disease Part II


Most people who have heart disease today were not born with it. Instead, it is something that developed over time. Adult heart diseases are usually caused by hereditary factors, lifestyle choices, or a combination of the two. When most people think of adult heart disease, they picture the typical heart attack as it is portrayed on TV and in the movies. The victim gasps, clutches their chest, and collapses. However, heart attacks are not really a heart disease in and of themselves-rather, they are a result of heart disease that has gone untreated until it was too late. Here is a list of common heart diseases in adults:

Coronary Artery Disease- This is the single most common form of heart disease in adults today, and also the main cause of heart attacks. Coronary artery disease occurs when coronary arteries, the arteries that feed blood to the heart, are blocked or obstructed. Remember, no other muscle in your body works as hard as your heart does, or has such a crucial job. Because your heart is so busy, it needs more blood and oxygen to function than other muscles in your body do. If that blood flow is cut off, the heart can’t pump like it should and starts to die.

Peripheral Artery Disease- Peripheral artery disease occurs when arteries other than the coronary arteries are blocked. For example, an artery in the leg might narrow and become blocked or obstructed. This can also cause a heart attack or stroke.

Valvular Heart Disease- Not all heart valve problems are congenital. Some people are born with heart valve defects, but in many other people problems in the heart valves develop over time. This can occur when the valves become hardened, or calcified, as a result of the aging process. It can also be a result of rheumatic fever or other types of heart disease. Valvular heart disease occurs when a valve becomes either stenotic or leaky. Both types can weaken the heart and cause it to fail if they are left untreated. Valvular heart disease sometimes produces no symptoms other than a heart murmur.

Cardiomyopathy- This is a doctors way of saying that your heart muscle is getting weaker. This can occur as a result of other heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or valvular heart disease. It also can be caused by illnesses in other bodily systems. Kidney failure can cause it. There are two types of cardiomyopathy: dilated and hypertrophic. Dilated cardiomyopathy happens when the muscle in the heart becomes enlarged, or dilated. When the heart muscle enlarges it also bcomes more flaccid and can’t contact with as much force as it should. On the other hand, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle becomes too thick and stiff, and can’t pump enough blood to keep up with the body’s needs. This type of cardiomyopathy is usually caused by genetics.

Cardiac Arrhythmias- These are disturbances in the rhythm of your heart. Each side of your heart is told when and how fast to pump by an electrical impulse. These impulses originate in the sinus node, and are communicated throughout the heart via electrical pathways that function like invisible wires. If anything happens to the sinus node or disrupts the flow of electricity through the wires, arrhythmia can result. There are two different kinds of arrhythmia. When the heart beats too slowly, doctors refer to it as bradycardia. When the heart beats too quickly, it is called tachycardia. Arrhythmias can either be mild and self-correcting, or serious enough to cause death.

Pericarditis- A thin lining of tissue known as the pericardium encircles your heart and protects it. However, some times this protective sac can become inflamed, a condition called pericarditis. This can cause chest pain, shortness of breath and sometimes complications if the inflammation is severe or does not resolve itself quickly.

Heart Failure-Contrary to what you might think, heart failure does not mean that the heart stops beating. However, it does mean that the heart is no longer able to pump blood with as much power as it should be able to. Therefore, none of your organs are getting as much blood as they need, and waste products are also not being removed as fast as they should be. Heart failure cannot be cured, but it can be managed. At least 5 million Americans live with a diagnosis of heart failure.

Coronary Artery Spasm-In this disorder, the coronary artery experiences an involuntary contraction or spasm. This can interfere with blood flow to the heart, even causing a heart attack. Medical scientists are not yet sure why this happens. It does not appear to be connected to narrowed or hardened arteries, or to other forms of heart disease. Drug treatment for this condition is available.

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