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A healthy heart helps maintain the health of all other organs in the body, including the brain. Yet, most people are at an increased risk of heart disease due to lifestyle choices. Most heart diseases are preventable by making a few lifestyle changes. They include things like exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease leads to most deaths in the United States. So common is heart disease that one in every four people will die of heart disease. Heart or cardiovascular disease refers to a class of conditions that affect the functioning of the heart. These conditions can include;
Heart disease occurs in many forms. Each exhibits different symptoms and requires specific treatment plans.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. CAD occurs as a result of a blockage in the heart arteries. This results in limited blood and oxygen flow to the heart muscle. One of the symptoms of CAD is chest pain. CAD is the leading cause of most heart attacks most of the time.
Coronary artery disease risk factors include;
When heart disease reaches heart failure level, the heart is not pumping blood as it should. Heart failure occurs due to CAD, high blood pressure, and cardiomyopathy.
Heart arrhythmias refer to irregular heartbeat patterns. Arrhythmias occur on their own or due to underlying medical conditions.
The heart consists of four valves that open and close as blood flows through the heart chambers. Heart valve disease occurs when these valves are abnormal. It results in blood flow blockage or blood leakage. Heart valve disease can be due to conditions like congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, and rheumatic fever. It can also occur if you have had a heart attack recently.
Also referred to as heart muscle disease, cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart’s muscles thicken, stiffen or stretch. When that happens, the heart becomes too weak to pump blood well. The disease occurs after a viral infection or exposure to toxins like alcohol. It can also happen if you have undiagnosed genetic heart conditions. Chemotherapy treatment can also cause cardiomyopathy. However, it’s usually hard to pinpoint the exact cause in most cases.
The pericardium is the sac that surrounds the heart. If the pericardium is diseased, it results in pericardial disease. Inflammation and pericarditis are the two leading causes of pericardial disease. It usually occurs after a bacterial or viral infection like rheumatoid arthritis.
Congenital heart disease occurs due to deformities as a child develops in the womb. These abnormalities can cause heart problems after birth. However, symptoms may not appear until the child becomes an adult in some cases. The most common abnormalities are septal abnormalities. These are holes that form in the wall of the heart.
The symptoms of heart disease differ from one person to another. Some heart conditions don’t even cause any symptoms. General signs and symptoms that could point to a heart problem include;
If a heart attack is not addressed, it can lead to cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is a life-threatening condition. The heart stops functioning, and organs begin to fail.
The doctor will order several tests to diagnose heart disease. Some of the tests can even be done before symptoms show.
Physical exam: The doctor will go through your medical history and symptoms. They will also go through your family medical history. This determines if genetics could be the reason for your heart disease.
An electrocardiogram test (ECG or EKG): helps the doctor spot heart irregularities. This is done by monitoring the electrical activity of the heart.
Blood tests: Blood tests test for cholesterol levels in the blood. A blood test will also check for inflammation due to an infection.
Echocardiogram: This is a kind of ultrasound test. It helps the doctor get a better picture of the structure of your heart.
Stress test: The test is conducted during strenuous physical activities like running, walking, or riding an indoor bike.
Holter monitor: The specialist will ask you to wear a heart rate monitor for 24 hours or more. This monitors your heart’s activity for a given period.
CT and MRI scan: These scans provide a more detailed picture of your heart plus blood vessels.
Carotid ultrasound: This test helps the doctor get a better picture of the structure of your arteries.
Treatment for heart disease will depend on the form of the disease. Treatment options include making lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
Most heart diseases are preventable. Lifestyles changes include exercising more, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet. You also need to maintain healthy body weight.
Sometimes, the doctor will prescribe certain medications to treat heart disease. These include anticoagulants, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and beta-blockers. Others are calcium channel blockers and angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitors. Medicines to lower cholesterol, digitalis, diuretics, and vasodilators will also help.
If medications are ineffective, surgery can help correct specific heart problems. Surgical options include coronary artery bypass, coronary angiography, valve replacement, and repair surgery. Sometimes devices like balloon catheters and pacemakers help the heart to beat well. In addition, laser treatment helps treat conditions like angina.
If you have heart disease, here are ways you can make sure the condition doesn’t progress;
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!