Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in today’s world. Heart disease is a disease that affects both genders (men and women).
Heart disease is a health condition that affects the heart. Heart disease can be accompanied by serious health conditions such as arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems), coronary artery disease, heart hole, and many other heart diseases.
Heart disease is also known as cardiovascular disease. Cardiac means heart while vessels mean blood vessels (arteries, veins, and blood). Cardiovascular disease occurs when there is a change in the normal way the blood vessels are supposed to be carrying out its function and this can be in form of narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Narrowed or blocked blood vessels can cause cardiac arrest also known as heart attack, stroke or chest pain (angina).
Also, there are certain heart conditions that can also affect the heart muscle, rhythm (heartbeat) or valves.
SYMPTOMS OF HEART DISEASE (CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE)
Cardiovascular disease symptoms can vary based on gender (men or women). Men are more likely to experience chest pain or chest discomfort while women are more likely to experience other symptoms apart from chest pain or chest discomforts such as fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath.
Heart disease symptoms can be determined based on the type of heart disease an individual is suffering from.
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY HEART ARRHYTHMIAS (ABNORMAL HEARTBEATS)
Heart arrhythmia (a-abnormal, rhythmic-heartbeat) is the abnormal beating of the heart or abnormal heartbeat. An abnormal heartbeat can be in form of a slow heartbeat, too quick or irregular heartbeat.
Heart arrhythmia symptoms include:
- Chest pain or chest discomfort
- Fluttering of the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Fast or too quick heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Feeling weak or tiredness
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY BLOOD VESSELS
Since blood vessels are responsible for transportation and circulation of blood in the body system, narrowed or blocked blood vessels may cause cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms seen in people with damaged blood vessels include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain, chest discomfort (angina), chest pressure and chest tightness (all this affect normal breathing)
- Weakness or coldness in the affected area of the body that has narrowed blood vessels such as the legs or arms
- Pain and numbness of the affected area of the body
- Pain in the jaw, throat, neck, superior part of the abdomen or back
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY CONGENITAL HEART DEFECTS
Congenital heart defects are heart complications from birth and it is usually vividly seen after birth. Heart defect symptoms that can be seen in infants include:
- Swelling in the abdomen, areas of the eyes and legs
- Shortness of breathing during feeding which leads to poor weight gain
- Blue or pale gray skin color (cyanosis)
However, uncomplicated congenital defects are not usually diagnosed until childhood or at times during adulthood. Symptoms of congenital heart defects that are not often seen as life-threatening include:
- Swelling in the ankle, hands or feet
- Shortness of breath easily during activity or exercise
- Getting tiring easily during activity or exercise
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY HEART INFECTIONS
Heart infection is caused when there is an infection within the inner membrane that separates the heart chambers and valves of the heart. This infection is called “Endocarditis”.
Heart infection symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in heartbeat
- Skin Rashes
- Swelling in abdomen or legs
- Body weakness
- Persistent or dry cough
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY VALVULAR HEART DISEASE
The heart has four main valves namely atrioventricular valves which is two and semilunar valves which is also two. The two atrioventricular valves are the tricuspid and bicuspid (mitral) valves. The two semilunar valves are the aortic semilunar (ASL) valve and the pulmonary semilunar (PSL) valve.
When the heart is relaxed, blood flows right past tricuspid / bicuspid valves while the semilunar valves remain shut. However, when the heart contracts (pumps) the tricuspid / bicuspid valves swing up and shut and blood ejected out of the ventricle and semilunar valves open up.
When these valves are damaged by a variety of conditions, it may lead to narrowing (stenosis), backflow of blood, or leaking (inadequate or regurgitation).
Notwithstanding of the valve that is not working properly, valvular heart disease symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain (angina)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Syncope (fainting)
- Swollen ankles or feet
HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY WEAK HEART MUSCLE (DILATED CARDIOMYOPATHY)
Symptoms are not usually seen in the early stage of cardiomyopathy. However, as the condition worsens some symptoms are likely to be seen and they are:
- Swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs
- Breathlessness with exertion
- Irregular heartbeats
THE HEART (CARDIAC)
The heart is a muscular organ that rests on the diaphragm, near the midline of thoracic cavity oriented left. The heart is a cardiovascular system that consists of the heart, arteries, veins, and blood. The size of your heart is said to be the size of your fist.
The heart consists of cardiac tissues. They are:
- Outermost cardiac tissue
- Middle cardiac tissue
- Innermost cardiac tissue
THE OUTERMOST CARDIAC TISSUES
The outermost cardiac tissues consist of pericardium and epicardium. The Pericardium is the membrane anchoring the heart to the diaphragm and sternum and it secretes lubricant known as “serous fluid”. The Epicardium is the outermost muscle tissue.
THE MIDDLE CARDIAC TISSUE
The middle cardiac tissue is called “myocardium” and it contains contractile muscle fibers.
THE INNERMOST CARDIAC TISSUE
The innermost cardiac tissue is called “endocardium”. It lines the cardiac chambers.
The human heart has four chambers. They are:
- Two atria (Right and left atria)
- Two ventricles (Right and left ventricles)
THE ATRIA (RIGHT AND LEFT ATRIA)
The atria are the superior or the uppermost part of the heart and they are primary receiving chambers. Blood flowing from other parts of the body flow first into the atria.
THE VENTRICLES (RIGHT AND LEFT)
The ventricles lie below the atria and their primary function is pumping of blood. The ventricles are able to carry out their function through contraction. As they contract, they send blood out of the heart into the circulation.
The chambers of the heart are separated by septum and due to the separated chambers, the heart functions as a double pump.
The right side of the heart and the left side of the heart have specific circulation that they cater for. The right side of the heart caters for pulmonary circulation while the left side of the heart caters for systemic circulation.
The pulmonary circulation caters for the right side of the heart and primarily deals with deoxygenated blood. The pulmonary circulation has specific pathways. They are:
- Superior / Inferior vena cava
- Right atrium to the tricuspid valve
- Right ventricles to the pulmonary semilunar valve
- Left pulmonary artery (pulmonary artery is the only artery that carries deoxygenated blood)
- Pulmonary artery takes deoxygenated blood to the lungs for oxygenation.
The systemic circulation caters for the left side of the heart and primarily deals with oxygenated blood. The systemic circulation has specific pathways. They are:
- Left pulmonary vein receives oxygenated blood from the lungs (left pulmonary vein is the only vein that carries oxygenated blood)
- Left atrium to the bicuspid valve
- Left ventricles to the aortic semilunar valve
- All other tissues
MYOCARDIAL THICKNESS AND FUNCTION
The walls of the atria are usually thin while the walls of the ventricles are thick. However, the wall of the left ventricle is thicker than the wall of the right ventricle because of its pumping action. The pumping action of the left ventricle requires much more force compared to the wall of the right ventricles.
The left ventricle pumps blood into the circulation while the right ventricle pumps blood into the lungs.
The heart has a number of valves that help in regulating blood. There are four major valves in the heart. Two atventricular valves and two semilunar valves.
The two atroventricular valves are between the atria and ventricles and they are:
- Tricuspid valve (between the right atria and right ventricle)
- Bicuspid valve (between the left atria and left ventricle)
The two semilunar valves are between the ventricles and the blood vessels and they are:
- Aortic semilunar valve (between the left ventricle and aorta)
- Pulmonary semilunar valve (between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery)
When the heart is relaxed, blood passively fills atrium and flows right past atroventricular valves (tricuspid and bicuspid valves) while the semilunar valves remain shut. However, when the heart contracts (pumps), atroventricular valves (tricuspid and bicuspid valves) swing up and shut. The blood ejected out of ventricles and the semilunar valves open up.
When the semilunar valves open, the atroventricular valves must remain close to prevent the backflow of blood.
CAUSES OF HEART DISEASE OR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
The cause of heart disease is based on the type of heart disease. Cardiovascular disease often refers to different heart or blood vessel disease. Cardiovascular disease is often used when the health condition is due to the damage of blood vessels caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of fatty plaque in the blood arteries. Whereas, plaque buildup stiffens and thickens the artery walls and this can alter or inhibit blood flow in the arteries to the body tissues and organs. It can be caused by an unhealthy diet, being overweight, poor body exercise and smoking.
CAUSES OF HEART ARRHYTHMIA (ABNORMAL HEARTBEAT)
Arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is commonly caused by the following:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Congenital heart defects
- Excessive intake of caffeine or alcohol
- Valvular heart disease
- Drug abuse or substance abuse
- Certain over the counter medications, dietary, herbal medicines and supplements
However, in a normal average healthy person, the heartbeat is about 72 times per minute. Fatal arrhythmia cannot occur without some underlying condition such as the illegal use of drugs or electric shock. A healthy person heart is free from any form of an abnormal heart condition that can cause an arrhythmia. Although, in a heart that is not beating in the normal way, the heart electrical impulses may not properly function and arrhythmias is likely to be developed in this condition.
CAUSES OF CONGENITAL HEART DEFECTS
Congenital heart defects are conditions that started or develop while the baby is still in the uterus (womb). Heart defects can be developed in the heart when the heart starts developing about a month after conception, thereby changing the flow of the blood in the heart.
Also, medication taken by the mother during pregnancy and gene may also play a vital role in heart defects development. Heart defect can also be seen in adults, as you age, your heart’s structure can be altered negatively, thereby causing a heart defect.
CAUSES OF HEART INFECTION
Heart infection such as endocarditis is usually caused when an irritant reaches the heart. The irritants can be informed of chemical, virus or bacterium. The most common causes of heart infection are:
CAUSES OF VALVULAR HEART DISEASE
There are numerous causes of valvular heart disease. Valvular heart disease may be a congenital heart disease (an individual may be born with it). The heart valves might also be damaged as a result of some disease conditions such as:
- Infections like infectious endocarditis
- Connective tissue disorders (CT disorders)
- Rheumatic fever
CAUSES OF CARDIOMYOPATHY
Although, cardiomyopathy heart disease symptoms are not usually seen at its early stage. However, the cause of cardiomyopathy an enlarging or thickening of the cardiac muscle may depend on the following:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy is one of the most common types of cardiomyopathy heart disease. Dilated cardiomyopathy usually enlarges the left ventricles. However, the cause of this form of cardiomyopathy heart disease is unknown. It may be caused as a result of a decrease in blood flow to the heart (ischemic heart disease). Also decrease in blood flow to the heart may be a result of damage caused after cardiac arrest (heart attack), toxins, infections, and certain medications.
Dilated cardiomyopathy may also be inherited from one of the parents with this heart disease. Also, both parents might be affected which means the children are also at high risk of having this heart disease.
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy. Restrictive Cardiomyopathy is the less common type of cardiomyopathy. This heart disease can occur for no reason or it can also occur when there is connective tissue disorder, an abnormal buildup of proteins (amyloidosis), excessive iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis) or during cancer treatments. Restrictive cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to become less elastic and rigid. When the heart muscle is less elastic and seems to be rigid it is known as “Restrictive Cardiomyopathy”.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually inherited (when the father or mother is affected, the children are at high risk of having this type of heart disease) and it can also develop because of high blood pressure (hypertension) or aging. In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the heart muscles is seen to be abnormally thick compared to normal heart muscle.
Also, heart disease can also be developed because of some certain factors. These factors are referred to a “Risk factors”. Risk factors for developing heart disease include:
- As we age, there is an increase in the risk of experiencing damaged or narrowed arteries and thickened or weakened heart muscle.
- Inheritance or Family history. When parents or family members have a history of heart disease. When parents developed heart disease at an early age, it also increases the children risk of having coronary artery disease.
- Certain radiation therapy for cancer and chemotherapy drugs. Radiation therapies and some chemotherapy drugs increase one’s chance of having cardiovascular disease.
- Heart attacks or cardiac arrests are more prominent in people that smoke compares to nonsmokers. Nicotine is capable of constricting blood vessels and carbon monoxide that can damage blood vessels lining, making them more susceptible to a heart disease known as “atherosclerosis”.
- Poor hygiene. Exposure to a dirty or untidy environment triggers certain health conditions apart from heart disease. Dirty environment harbor virus and bacteria and these bacteria can put you at high risk of having heart infections. Poor dental health may also contribute to heart disease.
- People with unhealthy weight are also at high risk of having heart attack (cardiac arrests). Remember the size of your fist is the size of your heart. People with abnormal weight tend to have small fists.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). People suffering from high blood pressure when untreated or uncontrolled may result in thickened arteries and narrowing blood vessels.
- Diabetes increases one’s risk of having cardiac arrests.
HOW TO PREVENT HEART DISEASE
Health disease and cardiac arrest (heart attack) are preventable. Preventing heart disease means making smart choices and boosting your health. However, certain types of heart disease such as heart defects are not preventable. Heart disease can be prevented by doing the following:
- Quit smoking. People that smoke are more likely to have heart attack compared to nonsmokers. Aside from smokers being liable to die young, they are also exposing themselves to lung cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke. If you are already smoking, try and quit but if you are not, don’t go near it. Save yourself from preventable diseases.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eat fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and vegetables on a regular basis. Fibers are a good source of cholesterol and you can get vitamins both in your foods and in natural ways.
Salmon or tuna fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and it is good for your health. Limit sugar and salt intake. Instead of taking soda drinks, water is the best. Control your blood sugar, too much sugar in the blood can lead to diabetes, and heart disease.
- Improve your cholesterol level and keep your triglyceride levels in check. There are good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. High level of bad cholesterol in the body can clog the arteries and thereby increase one’s risk of having coronary artery disease and cardiac arrest. Too much of triglycerides in the body increases one’s risk of having coronary artery disease, most especially in women. Eat diets low in cholesterol, refined sugars, high fibers, and saturated fat. Also, avoid trans fatty acids found in baked foods, margarine, and fried foods.
- Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure which is also known as hypertension is one of the most common causes of cardiac arrest (heart attack). People with high blood pressure are at high risk of having stroke and kidney disease. High blood pressure can be reduced by a healthful diet such as reducing the intake of salt, reducing body weight, increasing physical activities, limiting alcohol intake and managing stress.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. People with a healthy weight are at a lower risk of having heart disease compared with people with unhealthy weight. Since foods we eat also contribute to our weight, a healthy diet is important in other to keep a healthy weight. Also, losing an unhealthy weight can reduce your risks of some other disease condition apart from heart disease.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the best ways to keep a healthy weight. Exercise has many health benefits. Regular exercise helps in strengthening one’s heart and also improves blood circulation. It also helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and all these can lower one’s risk of having heart disease.
- Limit alcohol. Excessive drinking of alcohol can raise one’s blood pressure and increase one’s body weight. Thereby increasing one’s risk of having heart disease.