Heart Diseases

Introduction to heart

The heart is a muscle, which performs the job to pump blood around the body through a network of arteries and veins. Arteries carry oxygenated blood and distribute it to different parts of the body, while the veins receive deoxygenated blood from the parts of the body and take it back to the heart.

The heart contains both the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. The right chamber of the heart receives deoxygenated blood through veins, which then goes to the lungs to become oxygenated. This oxygenated blood comes back to the heart from where it is distributed to all the parts of the body through the arteries. In this manner, every cell of the body is able to get oxygen.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to a group of conditions, which affect the structure and functions of the heart. It includes diseases as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, chest pain and rheumatic heart disease. It is a lifelong condition, which you will always have, once you get it.

It has a number of root causes. Most of the heart diseases can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  • Coronary Artery Disease: It is the commonest type of heart disease, which causes narrowing or clogging of the coronary arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Coronary artery diseases cause angina, myocardial infarction, and cardiac sudden death.
  • Stroke: A stroke occurs when blood vessels, which are supplying blood to the brain, become narrowed or clogged. The peripheral vascular disease is similar to this condition, but it takes place in the arteries which supply the legs.
  • Congestive Heart Failure: This occurs when the heart muscles become weakened and are not able to pump blood efficiently. Common symptoms of this disease include shortness of breath, edema and exercise intolerance.
  • Cardiac Arrhythmias: Cardiac arrhythmias can be chronic and comparatively harmless, but they can be serious. They may be preventing the heart from pumping efficiently. In such cases, arrhythmias can cause cardiac sudden death or lead to congestive heart failure.
  • Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle loses its ability to pump the blood. Heart rhythm can be disturbed leading to arrhythmias. Cardiomyopathy may be theresult of coronary atherosclerosis. However,usually, the cause is unknown.

The common symptoms of heart disease are:

  • Jaw pain
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain typically on the left-sided
  • Nausea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Weakness especially at rest
  • Shortness of breath

The most common cause of heart disease is plaque formation in the arteries and blood vessels, which lead to the heart. This inhibits the nutrients and oxygen from reaching the heart.

Plaque is formed of cholesterol, minerals and fatty molecules, which accumulate over time. It develops when the inner lining of an artery is damaged due to high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides or cholesterol or cigarette smoking.

The most common risk factors for heart disease include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • The family history of heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

The doctor will probably carry out a physical exam and ask you about your personal and family medical history before any other tests.

Following are some of the ways to diagnose heart disease:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG can help the doctor to detect irregularities in the rhythms and structure of the heart.
  • Echocardiogram: It is a noninvasive exam that includes an ultrasound of chest, which reveals detailed images of the structure and function of the heart.
  • Stress test: This test is done by raising the heart rate with exercise or medication while performing heart tests and imaging to verify the response of the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization: This test is done to examine the working of the heart. In this test, a thin, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel, which leads to your heart.
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan: In a cardiac CT scan, images of your heart and chest are collected to check the heart problems.
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Cardiac MRI uses a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed pictures of the structures within the heart.
  • Lifestyle changes: They include consuming a low-fat and low-sodium diet and doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Also, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption play a great role in the treating the heart disease.
  • Medicines: Your doctor may prescribe you medicines depending on the type of heart disease from which you are suffering.
  • Surgery: If medicines are not enough to treat your condition then your doctor will advise you specific surgery depending on the type of heart disease and the extent of heart damage.

Many types of heart disease can be prevented by making certain changes in your lifestyle as:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Controlling other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Managing stress
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Eating a diet low in salt and saturated fat
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Heart disease can be managed and prevented by making certain changes in lifestyles:

  • Quit smoking: Quitting smoking is the best way to decrease the risk of heart disease and complications related to it.
  • Control blood pressure: If your blood pressure is higher than normal then your doctor will advise you frequent measurements.
  • Check cholesterol: If you have high cholesterol in your family history then you need to start testing cholesterol levels earlier.
  • Keep diabetes under control: If you have diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Move: Exercise helps you to stay away from the risk of a number of serious conditions including heart disease.
  • Eat healthy foods: Try to eat a heart-healthy diet containing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit the consumption of saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugar and sodium.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: The risk of heart disease increases if you are overweight. Therefore, maintain a healthy weight to stay away from the risk of heart disease.
  • Manage stress: Manage stress as much as possible by opting techniques like deep breathing.
  • Deal with depression: Consult your doctor if you feel hopeless in your life.
  • Practice good hygiene: Get vaccinated against the flu, wash your hands regularly and brush and floss your teeth regularly to stay well.