What is heart (cardiovascular) disease? The term cardiovascular disease may be used to refer to heart conditions that specifically affect the blood vessels. The heart is like any other muscle in body. It needs an adequate blood supply to provide oxygen so that the muscle can contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. Not only does the heart pump blood to the rest of the body, it also pumps blood to itself via the coronary arteries. These arteries originate from the base of the aorta (the major blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart) and then branch out along the surface of the heart. When one or more coronary arteries narrow, it may make it difficult for adequate blood to reach the heart, especially during exercise. This can cause the heart muscle to ache like any other muscle in the body. Should the arteries continue to narrow, it may take less activity to stress the heart and provoke symptoms. The classic symptoms of chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath that often spreads to the shoulders, arms, and/or neck due to atherosclerotic heart disease (ASHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) are called angina. Should one of the coronary arteries become completely blocked -- usually due to a plaque that ruptures and causes a blood clot to form -- blood supply to part of the heart may be lost. This causes a piece of heart muscle to die. This is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (myo=muscle + cardia=heart + infarction= tissue death). Who gets heart disease? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source. In the United States, 1 in every 4 deaths in is the result of a heart disease. That’s about 610,000 people who die from the condition each year. Heart disease doesn’t discriminate. It’s the leading cause of death for several populations, including white people, Hispanics, and Black people. Almost half of Americans are at risk for heart disease, and the numbers are rising. While heart disease can be deadly, it’s also preventable in most people. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits early, you can potentially live longer with a healthier heart. What are the different types of heart disease and their causes Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Several diseases and conditions fall under the umbrella of heart disease. Types of heart disease include: • Arrhythmia: An arrhythmia is a heart rhythm abnormality. Causes of heart arrhythmia • Common causes of arrhythmias or conditions that can lead to arrhythmias include: • Coronary artery disease • Diabetes • Drug abuse • Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine • Heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects) • High blood pressure • Smoking • Some over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies • Stress Valvular heart disease In a healthy person with a normal, healthy heart, it's unlikely for a deadly arrhythmia to develop without some outside trigger, such as an electrical shock or the use of illegal drugs. However, in a heart that's diseased or deformed, the heart's electrical signals may not properly start or travel through the heart, making arrhythmias more likely to develop. • Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries. Causes of atherosclerosis • A buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries (atherosclerosis) is the most common cause of coronary artery disease. • Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as a poor diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking, can lead to atherosclerosis. • Cardiomyopathy: This condition causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak. • Causes of cardiomyopathy The cause of cardiomyopathy, a thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle, may depend on the type: • Dilated cardiomyopathy. The cause of this most common type of cardiomyopathy often is unknown. The condition usually causes the left ventricle to widen. Dilated cardiomyopathy may be caused by reduced blood flow to the heart (ischemic heart disease) resulting from damage after a heart attack, infections, toxins and certain drugs, including those used to treat cancer. It may also be inherited from a parent. • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This type usually is passed down through families (inherited). It can also develop over time because of high blood pressure or aging.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy. This least common type of cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to become rigid and less elastic, can occur for no known reason. Or it may be caused by diseases, such as connective tissue disorders or the buildup of abnormal proteins (amyloidosis).
- Congenital heart defects: Congenital heart defects are heart irregularities that are present at birth.
Causes of congenital heart defects
- Congenital heart defects usually develop while a baby is in the womb. Heart defects can develop as the heart develops, about a month after conception, changing the flow of blood in the heart. Some medical conditions, medications and genes may play a role in causing heart defects.
- Heart defects can also develop in adults. As you age, your heart’s structure can change, causing a heart defect.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): CAD is caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries. It’s sometimes called ischemic heart disease.
- Heart infections: Heart infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Causes of heart infection
A heart infection, such as endocarditis, is caused when germs reach your heart muscle. The most common causes of heart infection include:
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
Different types of heart disease may result in a variety of different symptoms.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms. The symptoms you experience may depend on the type of arrhythmia you have — heartbeats that are too fast or too slow. Symptoms of an arrhythmia include:
- Fluttering heart or racing heartbeat
- Slow pulse
- Fainting spells
- Chest pain
Atherosclerosis reduces blood supply to your extremities. In addition to chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms of atherosclerosis include:
- Coldness, especially in the limbs
- Numbness, especially in the limbs
- Unusual or unexplained pain
- Weakness in your legs and arms
Congenital heart defects
Congenital heart defects are heart problems that develop when a fetus is growing. Some heart defects are never diagnosed. Others may be found when they cause symptoms, such as:
- Blue-tinged skin
- Swelling of the extremities
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue and low energy
- Irregular heart rhythm
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
CAD is plaque buildup in the arteries that move oxygen-rich blood through the heart and lungs. Symptoms of CAD include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- A feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of indigestion or gas
Cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the muscles of the heart to grow larger and turn rigid, thick, or weak. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Swollen legs, especially ankles and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Pounding or rapid pulse
The term heart infection may be used to describe conditions such as endocarditis or myocarditis. Symptoms of a heart infection include:
- Chest pain
- Chest congestion or coughing
- Skin rash
How can I prevent heart disease?
Certain types of heart disease, such as heart defects, can’t be prevented. However, the same lifestyle changes that can improve your heart disease can help you prevent it, including:
- Don’t smoke.
- Control other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
- Eat a diet that’s low in salt and saturated fat.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce and manage stress.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Get close to your doctor or medical Advisor. If you don’t have one yet BOOK a consultation session with Herbalist Therapist expert Anthia Wint of Finest Herbal Shop.
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