The heart is one of the body’s most important organs. It is the center of your circulatory system, supplying your body with oxygen and blood through a series of veins and arteries. A healthy heart allows your body to respond well to periods of stress and changes in your blood pressure while continuing to supply your organs with the nutrition and oxygen they need.
Many factors affect the health of the heart, and some issues start at birth. In this article, we’re going to discuss important information about heart disease to clear up some confusion and raise awareness on America’s leading killer.
Who gets heart disease?
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Nearly 1 in every 4 deaths is the result of the condition, taking away more than 600,000 lives each year. It also doesn’t discriminate, as the mortality rate is the same for Hispanics, Caucasians, and African-Americans. Almost half of the country is at risk for heart disease, and the figures are rising.
With the right lifestyle changes, the condition could be prevented in most people. Adopt healthy habits early is a key in promoting heart health and ensuring a longer life.
Unlike cardiovascular illness, which describes problems relating to the circulatory system and the blood vessels, heart disease refers to deformities and issues in the heart itself. The condition has many types and they occur in various ways and affect different parts of the organ.
- Arrhythmia – This occurs when the heart has an irregular heartbeat, whether it’s too fast, too slow, erratic, or has contractions. Irregular heartbeats are common, and all people experience them. But when they change too much or happen because of a weak heart, they can become fatal and need immediate treatment.
- Coronary artery disease – The coronary arteries provide the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients by circulation blood. The common cause of damaged arteries is cholesterol buildup which narrows the passageway and decreases the number of nutrients that the heart receives.
- Congenital heart defects – This is a general term for some deformities of the heart that are present at birth. Examples include defects that cause a shortage of oxygen around the body (cyanotic heart disease), partial or total blockage of the various chambers of the heart (obstruction defects), and a hole between the two chambers (septal deformities).
- Heart failure – This happens when the heart fails to pump blood around the body efficiently.
- Atherosclerosis – Also known as the hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis happens when cholesterol, fat, and calcium form plaque in the arteries. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, or heart failure if left untreated.
- Cardiomyopathy – This condition causes the heart’s muscles to grow weak or harden.
- Infections – Certain viruses, parasites, and bacteria can lead to heart infections.
Causes and Risk Factors
Heart disease is a collection of illnesses that result in cardiovascular problems. Different risk factors including sex, age, and family history affect each specific condition. It’s important to be aware of these influences and monitor them closely with your doctor.
Conditions linked to heart disease:
- High blood pressure – This is the upsurge of the pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries. The excess stress and resulting damage from hypertension cause the coronary arteries serving the heart to slowly become narrowed and may lead to a heart attack.
- High cholesterol – Excessive amounts of low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol can lead to different types of heart disease. As the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood rises, you risk developing plaque in your artery walls. This prevents sufficient blood flow and causes all sorts of problems. In contrast, high levels of high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol improve your heart health.
- Diabetes – This condition is characterized by the body’s limited ability or complete inability to produce insulin, which increases the glucose levels in the blood. The chance of heart disease is two to four times higher for adults with diabetes that for those who don’t.
Your lifestyle choices and behaviors also play a significant role in your susceptibility to develop certain heart diseases. Mounting evidence shows that overconsumption of foods high in saturated fats, sugar, trans fat, and cholesterol is extremely harmful to your heart. Obesity and lack of exercise are also the main culprits for developing risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Tobacco, including secondhand cigarette smoke, is also linked to heart illness.
The symptoms of heart disease depend on which condition is affecting an individual. However, common signs include heart palpitations, breathlessness, and chest pain. Heart attacks can also occur as a result of various types of heart disease. Their symptoms sometimes resemble indigestion. Stomach ache and heartburn can happen, as well as a heavy feeling in the chest.
Meanwhile, some heart conditions occur with no warning signs at all, especially in individuals with diabetes and older adults. Even if you are not sure that what you are experiencing indicates a heart attack, you should call for emergency medical care. When your life could be on the line, you shouldn’t worry causing anyone inconvenience or a false alarm.
Prevention and Treatment
These two aspects go hand in hand – many of the methods used to reduce the risk of heart disease are similar to what you should do to alleviate symptoms and manage the illness. Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels with a healthy diet, exercise, and regular visits to your primary care provider.
Screening for hypertension is important as it often doesn’t show any symptoms. If you take medications to manage other heart-related illnesses, be sure to comply with your treatment plan and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Staying on top of your health helps your body fight diseases, including that of the heart. Learn if you might be a candidate for high blood sugar, blood pressure-, or cholesterol-lowering medication. Start protecting yourself with healthier lifestyle choices and finding what you can about your family history of heart problems. Provide this information to your doctor so he or she can help devise a plan to lower your risks and avoid the disease.