Heart Disease Basics

Healthy Heart, Healthy Living
on August 13, 2011
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Heart disease is an all-encompassing term that includes a variety of diseases. It is the leading cause of death in the United States, England, Canada and Wales. Know the heart disease basics and prevent this very common, very dangerous health problem.

It’s not magic; it’s a muscle. Your heart gets energy from the oxygen and nutrients in your blood. Proper functioning of the heart is crucial to proper functioning of the entire body. It is this fact that makes heart disease — and the many conditions under that heading — crucial to understand. Some of the many forms heart disease take are:

  • Coronary heart disease relates to the failure of the heart to circulate blood adequately. It is usually associated with coronary artery disease, but vasospasms can also bring on coronary heart disease.
  • Cardiomyopathy is the deterioration of the heart muscle. This type of heart disease puts people at risk for arrhythmia and even sudden death.
  • Cardiovascular disease is a number of diseases affecting the heart and the blood vessel system. Causes are typically diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperhomocysteinemia and hypercholesterolemia. Atherosclerosis is one type of cardiovascular disease.
  • Ischemic heart disease involves reduced blood supply to the organs.
  • Heart failure, also known as congestive cardiac failure, results from structural or functional heart disorders that impair the muscle’s ability to pump the correct amount of blood, leading to heart failure.
  • Hypertensive heart disease is caused by high blood pressure and leads to conditions such as coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, left ventricular hypertrophy and hypertensive cardiomyopathy.
  • Inflammatory heart disease is the inflammation of the heart muscle and/or the adjacent tissues.
  • Valvular heart disease affects one or more of the four heart’s valves.

Heart disease has no hard and fast rules. Symptoms of heart disease may vary widely. However, in general, the symptoms can be typified. Most often, heart disease symptoms include shortness of breath; pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms; angina, also known as chest pain, which can be stabbing or pressing; fatigue; irregular heartbeat, either rapid or too slow; and fainting. If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect you are suffering from heart disease, see your doctor. Chest pain, shortness of breath and fainting are reason enough to seek immediate medical care. Call 911 and get to the emergency room immediately.

Management and even prevention is under your control. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, you can help control the risk factors and causes that lead to coronary artery disease. Monitoring and managing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, stress, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and weight with your physician are your best defenses against heart disease.