Leading Cause Of Death
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There are many different types of heart disease—some are congenital (people are born with them), while a majority of heart diseases develop over the course of time and affect people later in life.
Heart and blood vessel diseases are often referred to as “silent killers” because they usually develop over time and can go unnoticed. Many heart problems develop when the arteries, which supply blood to the heart, slowly clog with cells, fat and cholesterol (plaque). When the inner walls of arteries become narrow from a buildup of plaque, blood clots form and less blood can get through. This condition is known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Lack of blood flow to the heart can cause a heart attack, while lack of blood flow to the brain can result in a stroke
The Heart Is Very Strong
The heart is a strong, muscular pump slightly larger than your fist. It pumps blood continuously through the circulatory system, the network of elastic tubes that allows blood to flow throughout your body. The circulatory system includes two major organs, the heart and lungs, and blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins). Arteries and capillaries carry oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart and lungs to all parts of the body. Veins carry oxygen- and nutrient-depleted blood back to the heart and lungs. Here are some of the common heart diseases
Arrhythmias are disturbances in the heart's normal beating pattern. The irregularities occur in many forms, each with its own potential causes and treatments. Serious arrhythmias are a frequent consequence of other heart diseases, but may also occur independently. Occasional, isolated disturbances of the heartbeat are common and usually harmless. Signs of more serious arrhythmias include the following:
Recurrent palpitations defined as an uncomfortable awareness of your heartbeat. The palpitations may take the form of a strong pulse in the neck, a flip-flopping heart, or a fluttering, thumping, pounding or racing beat in the chest.
Endocarditis is an inflammatory condition that affects heart valves. This disease is an infection or inflammation of the endocardium, the innermost layer of heart tissue that lines the chambers and valves. It is usually caused by bacterial infection, with the staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria as most likely culprits. Bacteria may enter the blood and take root in the heart during illness, after surgery, or as a result of any intravenous drug use. The disease can be fatal if left untreated, but it generally can be helped with antibiotics (make sure you take a full-spectrum probiotic after taking any antibiotics). If heart valves are seriously damaged as a result of endocarditis, valve replacement surgery may be needed
Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic heart disease is another type of heart disease affecting valves, and was very common earlier in this century but is now largely preventable, although it still occurs. The disease stems from damage to the heart muscle and valves caused by rheumatic fever, which itself is associated with strep throat. Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease are generally delayed for many years, but if valves were damaged severely enough by the fever, they will eventually leak or impede proper blood flow. Rheumatic heart disease generates characteristic heart murmurs that can be detected upon examination. Congestive heart failure (ineffective heart pumping action) and atrial fibrillation (a particular type of arrhythmia), are also common complications. In cases of severe rheumatic heart disease, valves may either be reopene or replaced.
Lack of blood flow to the brain from a blood clot, or bleeding in the brain from a broken blood vessel, causes a stroke. Without a good blood supply, brain cells cannot get enough oxygen and begin to die. You can also have what are sometimes called "mini strokes," or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), where no damage is done to the brain. But even though they do no damage, TIAs are serious and can put you at higher risk of having a full stroke. Not controlling high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes all increase your risk for stroke.
Any disease of the pericardium, the membranous sac surrounding the heart, is classified as pericardial disease. The more common is an inflammatory condition called pericarditis. It is usually caused by viral infection, a connective-tissue disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or possibly trauma to the pericardium. Pericarditis often follows open-heart surgery. Excess fluid buildup within the pericardium is a frequent symptom of the disease. Listening with a stethoscope, a doctor might detect the disease upon hearing a characteristic scratching sound called a pericardial rub. Fever and sharp pain in the center of the chest mark acute cases. Pericarditis often subsides eventually on its own, but may respond to anti-inflammatories, or in very severe cases, corticosteroid hormones or having fluid drained from the pericardium.
Primary Myocardial Disease:
Diseases of the heart muscle, or myocardium, are collectively referred to as primary myocardial disease, or cardiomyopathy. When diseased, the myocardium becomes abnormally stretched, thickened or stiff. Among the many potential causes of cardiomyopathy are connective-tissue diseases, genetic heart conditions, metabolic disorders, and reactions to certain drugs or toxins such as alcohol and viral infections. Often the exact cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown.
In any event, either the myocardium becomes too weak to pump efficiently, or stiffening prevents filling of the heart. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling of the feet and ankles, and light-headedness. When cardiomyopathy progresses to the point of causing serious arrhythmias or congestive heart failure, the outlook for long-term survival is poor. Sudden death has been another outcome associated with some cardiomyopathies, including idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis, which has claimed the lives of a number of prominent young professional athletes. Symptoms can often be controlled and heart failure averted for many years, if cardiomyopathy can be detected and treated early enough.
Congenital Heart Disease
Should anything go amiss in the formation of the heart during prenatal development, a baby will be born with one or more congenital heart defects. Such defects are quite common, occurring in about 7 of every 1,000 babies. The exact causes of defects are generally hard to pin down; genes and environmental factors inside the mother's body may both contribute. Chromosome abnormalities, including the one that causes Down syndrome, have been linked to many congenital heart defects. Infections contracted during pregnancy by the mother, such as German Measles, may also result in congenital heart disease for the baby.
Congenital heart defects range widely in their effects. Some are apparent immediately, but others do not show noticeable symptoms until adulthood. Minor conditions often clear up on their own, while the most severe conditions may not be able to be corrected and may be fatal. Fortunately, many congenital heart defects can be treated, and if necessary surgery is available.
Talk with your health care provider if you think you may be having any symptoms of heart disease. Your health care provider will first take a complete medical history and do a physical exam. There are many tests for heart disease.*Note: Image(s) by the courtesy of http://www.healthspablog.org.