The heart is a chambered visceral organ situated at the center of the lungs and it pumps blood throughout your body. Blood is bestowed with the responsibility of delivering oxygen and other essential nutrients throughout the body. It is one of the most vital organs in the human body and is a part of the circulatory system. A healthy heart has a unidirectional flow of blood, due to heart valves as they prevent backflow.
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is any disorder that can affect the normal functioning of the heart. Many kinds of heart conditions can be avoided/treated with lifestyle adoptions. Often times, ‘heart disease’ and ‘cardiovascular disease’ are used interchangeably. Heart disease is an umbrella term including several different diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart defects, arrhythmias, genetic heart defects and other disorders of the blood vessels.
Cardiovascular diseases are the reason for the most number of fatalities worldwide, leaving Cancer behind in the second position.
The number of disorders that fall under the broad category of “heart disease” is beyond the scope of this article. This article will present to you, in brief, chief heart diseases in a few broad categories which are as follows.
- Coronary heart disease or disorders of blood vessel
- Disorders of heart valves
- Disorders of heart muscles or cardiomyopathy
- Congenital heart defects
The following is the description of the above-mentioned heart diseases.
1. The blood vessels that supply the heart muscles with blood are called coronary arteries. These arteries get constricted or blocked when fat, cholesterol and calcium get build-up in your arteries and take the form of ‘plaque’ inside and on the arterial walls. This results in decreased flow of blood through these arteries which results in insufficient blood supply to the muscles. This condition is also termed as atherosclerosis. In some cases, the plaque breaks off from the arteries which result in sudden cardiac death.
2. Disorders of the heart valves are valvular heart diseases that are a result of the improper functioning of your heart. These valves are like gate-keepers. They are at the exit of each chamber of your heart and are responsible for the unidirectional flow of blood through the heart. All the four valves of your heart i.e., mitral valves and the tricuspid valves also maintain a constant forward flow and prevent the leakage in the opposite direction. The flow of blood is always from the right atrium to the left and then to the ventricles.
3. Cardiomyopathy is the condition that is related to the heart musculature. In this disease, it becomes difficult for the patient’s heart to pump blood through the body. Heart failure can be a result of cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is an umbrella term in itself and includes conditions like hypertrophic or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or it can be dilated or restrictive. Cardiomyopathy is said to be curable by surgical interventions including implants. Medications are also effective in such cases. But in severe cases, heart transplantation can be the only mode of treatment.
4. Arrhythmia is the condition of the heart in which the beating of the heart is improper or irregular. This diversion from the normal beating of the heart can be either faster than normal or slower than what it should be. The potential causes of arrhythmias of the heart are said to be the improper electrical impulses of the heart. Tachycardia and bradycardia are the conditions of too fast and too slow heartbeats. In most cases, these conditions are asymptomatic. Some of the symptoms of these conditions may be fatigue, dizziness, chest congestions, fluttering in your chest. This condition is treated by an array of clinical procedures, drugs that are anti-arrhythmic and implants.
5. A congenital heart defect is a birth defect related to the heart. Out of all the birth defects, a congenital heart defect is the most common one. This condition is majorly rooted in the structure of one’s heart, which may involve the heart valves, myocardium, or the blood vessels in and around the heart. The list of the different congenital heart defects is lengthy. These conditions can be something so simple that it goes unnoticed for years altogether or something as complex that it may even be detected during a pregnancy ultrasound. They are not always life-threatening. The symptoms of the disorder are conspicuous and murmurs are one of them. Sometimes, such conditions do not surface until after many years of birth. If any abnormality in the heartbeat is detected by the clinician, further investigation must be performed.
Cardiovascular diseases are caused by a variety of different reasons. But a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most major reasons of all. In early times, declining age was seen as an indicator of the contraction of heart disease. However, presently, a large number of the population that is susceptible to cardiovascular disease has no specific etiological cause. People, as young as those in their adolescence, are falling prey to these life-threatening conditions.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major risk factor for any cardiovascular disease. If you suffer from regular fluctuations of too high blood pressure, it can cause repeated insults to your blood vessels. Consumption of tobacco or smoking is another significant risk factor for heart diseases. The composition of these substances is highly toxic and harmful for your heart and can damage/narrow the blood vessels. Also, increased cholesterol levels in your body can result in plaque formation, thus causing constriction of blood vessels and then you are higher risk of contracting a blood clot. Not exercising can also contribute to the risks of heart disease. Without exercise, you are more susceptible to high blood pressure, increased levels of cholesterol and obesity. And all these are top-notch risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Obesity also increases the risks of conditions like diabetes.
Furthermore, if you have a family backing of cardiovascular diseases, you are at a high risk of developing one at a later stage in life. Other major risk factors of heart diseases depend upon sex, age and diet. Also, excessive consumption of alcohol is another factor that can make you more susceptible to heart disease.
If you are at a high risk of getting cardiovascular disease, the following little things can help you avoid any life-threatening condition.
An active lifestyle is an aid in lowering the risks of cardiovascular diseases. A healthy individual is one who consumes a healthy diet and thus has a healthy heart. So, it is advised to at least go for around 30 minutes of physical activity every day, and it can be something as simple as swimming or brisk walking. Also, if you have a body mass index or BMI of over 25, then regular exercising can help you prevent a lot of disorders. It can also help you lose weight, and live a healthier life. Certain medications are available and recommended which involve statins and aspirin in low doses and other anti-hypertensive drugs. This is your best bet to prevent heart disease. So, buckle up and get on that treadmill.
All the above-mentioned risk factors and ways of prevention are highly general and they definitely differ from person to person. Thus, if you are someone who is at a risk of contracting any heart disease or if you are a patient of a cardiovascular condition, then you must take the utmost care of yourself in terms of your lifestyle and habits. Heart diseases are a global threat to human life and are highly common in the present state of health. So, if you are at risk of heart disease, then start making the necessary changes in your life in order to be at better chances of fighting off this condition well. Also, if you find yourself in the middle of the slightest unease, it is advised to better consult a clinical practitioner.