Heart disease is a general term for a set of heart problems. The heart is a vital organ in the body and any illness affecting the heart is life-changing. Some heart diseases are preventable and most of them are manageable with proper treatment. Heart disease is a leading case of death in the United States with one in every four people dying from heart related illness.
Different types of heart diseases, their causes and symptoms:
- Coronary heart disease:
Coronary heart disease is the most common. It occurs from the narrowing of Coronary arteries that supply the heart. As plague forms within the arteries, they become thinner becoming more difficult for blood to flow through, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Plague is a combination of cholesterol and other products that are no longer useful in the body. For persons with this condition, their heart does not receive the required nutrients and oxygen. The condition builds up over time causing weakening of heart muscles. The individual is also at a high risk of developing other complications such as arrhythmia and heart failure.
- Congenital heart disease:
A congenital heart disease is an inborn heart defect. There are different types of congenital heart defects affecting the valves, blood vessels and the heart walls. Some of these conditions are treated soon after birth leading to full recovery while others persist for a lifetime. Congenital heart diseases are either cyanotic congenital heart disease or acyanotic congenital heart disease depending on whether the condition affects oxygen levels. Cyanotic congenital heart diseases are associated with low oxygen levels. Acyanotic congenital diseases don’t affect oxygen levels in the individual. Some of these congenital heart abnormalities are detected during pregnancy through ultrasound.
- Abnormal heart valves:
For persons with this condition their valves don’t open or close properly. The condition interferes with the heart’s ability to pump blood normally.
- Abnormal walls:
Septal defects affect the walls of the heart. The heart walls dividing the different heart chambers may not develop properly. The heart doesn’t pump blood as it should and instead blood is retained in different parts of the heart. The heart has to work harder to pump blood which results in high blood pressure.
- Abnormal vessels:
Arteries and veins that work within the heart may not work properly affecting the flow of blood. The defects result in health complications such as blocking blood from flowing.
Symptoms of congenital heart disease:
Some congenital heart defects are detected after birth. Their symptoms include:
- Bluish tint in the baby’s lips, skin, toes and fingers
- Delayed growth
- Low weight at birth
- Feeding difficulties
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest pain
In some cases, the symptoms develop later in life and they include:
- Difficulties breathing
- Dizziness and abnormal heart rhythms.
For adults, the symptoms include:
- Inability to exercise
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
The causes of congenital heart disease are not certain. Researchers have provided a set of factors that might lead to such problems and they include the following:
- Hereditary conditions that run in the family
- Taking certain prescription medications that when taken during pregnancy affect the development of the fetus heart
- Consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs during pregnancy that affect the development of the fetus heart
- Viral infections affecting expectant mothers during the first trimester of pregnancy increase risk of having a child with a heart defect.
- Fluctuations in sugar levels during pregnancy such as cases of diabetes affect the development of the fetus
Arrhythmia is a health condition whereby the victim has an irregular heartbeat. In cases of arrhythmia, the electrical activities of the heart malfunction resulting in a too fast heartbeat, a heartbeat that is slow or chaotic. There are three different types of arrhythmia, and they include:
- Tachycardia- characterized by a rapid heart beat
- Bradycardia- characterized by a slow heart beat
- Atrial fibrillation- characterized by an irregular heart beat
- Premature contractions- the victim has an early heartbeat
In most cases, the condition is mild lasting for a short while. You should always seek treatment if the problem persists as it may affect the heart resulting in life-threatening complications. Victims with this condition experience a filtering or racing heart beat.
The heart muscles of the individual become thick or stretch and the chambers of the heart get dilated. It becomes weak and difficult to pump blood. The cause of the condition is prior heart attack, arrhythmia and toxins. If untreated, the condition results in arrhythmia, heart attack and blood clots in the heart. Studies suggest that most people who suffer from the condition are aged between 20 and 60 years.
It is also known as heart attack, and it involves interrupted blood flow to the heart. The arteries supply blood to the heart spasm or block from the formation of plague and blood clots. The blockage results in the death or weakening of heart muscles.
It is a heart condition whereby the heart is still functioning but poorly. It can result from untreated heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, arrhythmia or high blood pressure. The condition is life-threatening and should be treated immediately. It can even be prevented by addressing other heart problems in good time.
It is a genetic condition that affects the heart muscles. The heart muscles thicken, affecting their ability to contract. For persons with the condition their heart does not allow blood or pump blood normally. In some cases the condition results in obstruction.
The condition can go for a lifetime undetected. However, it can advance to other chronic heart diseases. Persons with family history of this condition should seek screening and treatment if necessary. It is common in athletes and a leading cause of death in persons under the age of 35.
Mitral valve regurgitation:
For persons with this condition, the mitral valve doesn’t close well enough allowing the back flow of blood in to the heart. It affects veins carrying blood from the heart, and over time, the heart of the victim becomes enlarged. The condition can result in heart failure.
Mitral valve prolapse:
It is another genetic heart disease affecting the valves. In this case,the mitral valves of the heart do not function properly. The valves bulge into the left atrium causing a heart murmur. For most people, the condition is not life-threatening.
Aortic stenosis is a condition whereby the pulmonary valve doesn’t function properly. The valve is thick or fused, affecting it’s ability to open. It becomes different for the heart to pump blood through the pulmonary artery.
The aortic valve opening is also affected, becoming too small to allow blood flow. The condition affects the flow of blood from the left ventricle to through the aorta. Pressure builds up within the left ventricle affecting the heart muscles. For some people the aortic stenosis is congenital while for others it results from the deposition of calcium or scarring.
Symptoms of heart disease:
The symptoms of heart disease vary depending on the condition and the individual. Here are some symptoms that you may have a heart disease:
- Chest pain or angina
- Fluid retention causing swelling or edema
- Difficulty walking
- Light-headedness or fatigue
In congenital heart diseases, the conditions affect the child’s ability to play, the child may also have a tinge or cyanosis.
The symptoms for heart attack include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Choking sensation
- Stomach pain
- Swollen ankles
- Heart palpitations
- Arm, jaw and leg pain
Heart diseases can lead to cardiac arrest which is fatal. When the victim becomes unresponsive, immediately call 911 and start CPR.
Causes of heart disease:
Heart disease develops from damages to the heart or subsection of the heart. It can also occur from challenges within the blood vessels leading to or away from the heart and low supply of blood to the heart (oxygen and nutrients).
Other conditions that can lead to heart disease include:
- High levels of stress and anxiety
- Low activity levels
- Preeclampsia during pregnancy
- High blood pressure
- Choice of diet
- High cholesterol
- Smoking and alcohol
- Use of illegal drugs
How to prevent heart disease?
Some heart diseases can be prevented. Here are some changes we can make to our lives to reduce the risk of heart disease:
- Healthy diet- Eating a well balanced diet with fibre, fruits and vegetables. We should also avoid processed foods, fats, salt and sugar.
- Regular physical exercise will help strengthen the heart muscles. It will also lower levels of cholesterol, reducing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It also helps in maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Avoid smoking which is a major cause for cardiovascular diseases and heart conditions.
- Regulate alcohol intake to the recommended levels.
- Management of underlying conditions will prevent heart conditions. These conditions include health conditions affecting the heart such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
We should have routine check ups to monitor our health and address any health problems. The earlier a health condition is detected the easier it gets to treat. Some heart conditions are easy to manage and treat. As time goes by, these conditions lead to other other chronic illnesses becoming more difficult to manage and treat.
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