Drawing of a fork picking heart

Heart disease covers a wide range of diseases that affect your heart. Most of these diseases come from problems with your blood vessels, heart rhythm problems, heart infections and heart defects created before you were born.

Heart disease and cardiovascular diseases are often considered the same syndrome. If you have cardiovascular disease you have conditions that involve blocked and narrowed blood vessels. These blocked vessels lead to heart attacks, strokes or chest pains. There are also forms of heart disease that affects the heart’s muscles, valves and rhythms.

You can prevent many heart diseases with lifestyle choices that range from healthy eating to exercising to getting enough sleep. Depending on the symptoms you have, will determine what type of heart disease you are diagnosed.

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Symptoms of Heart Disease

Narrowed, blocked of non-elastic blood vessels that stop the heart from getting sufficient blood will cause cardiovascular diseases. Watch for symptoms that can be:

  • Angina or chest pain;
  • Shortness of breath and problems getting enough oxygen into your lungs;
  • Pain or numbness in your arms and legs. You could also experience weakness and coldness. Blood vessels are narrowed and unable to function properly.

You may not actually be diagnosed with cardiovascular or heart disease until your state worsens or you have a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. Be aware of cardiovascular symptoms and exam your concerns with your doctor. You can often find heart diseases early with regular visits and awareness.

Abnormal heartbeat or heart arrhythmias are symptoms of heart disease. Your medical check may find that your heart beats too fast or too slow or is too irregular. Tachycardia or racing heartbeat or fluttering in your chest should alert you to cardiovascular disease.

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Heart Workings

The heart is essentially a pump and is a muscle about the size of your fist. Your heart has a left side and a right side to keep oxygen rich blood on one side and oxygen poor blood on the other side.

Your right side of your heart has a right atrium and ventricle. The atrium collects and pumps blood to the lungs through pulmonary arteries. Your lungs provide fresh oxygenated blood, it turns red and blood is returned to the left side of your heart. It is then pumped through the aorta to provide oxygen and nutrients to your body. There are four valves that make up your heart; there duties are to push and pull blood in the right directions. These are the mitral, pulmonary, tricuspid, mitral and aortic values. Valves open and shut once a second or with every heartbeat.

To complicate a simple process, you heart also relaxes and contracts. Contracting is called systole and relaxation is defined as diastole. Systole pressure forces blood in the vessels that travel to your lungs and body. The ventricle refilling is diastole pressure. The cycle continues as long as your heart beats.

In the heart has electrical wiring, so to speak, that keeps the heart beating. Electrical impulses start high in the right atrium and run though pathways to the ventricles telling them to ” “pump. This system keeps your heart beating in normal rhythms and provides circulated blood. Keeping your heart beating regularly and in a choreographed manner is what keeps you from dying.

If anything goes wrong in this process, heart disease occurs.

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Causes of Heart Disease

Damage to your heart can be caused by atherosclerosis or fatty substances in your arteries. Atherosclerosis disturbs your arteries or the blood vessels that transport the nutrients regenerated blood from your heart to the entire body.

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Too much pressure in arteries creates vessel walls that are thick and stiff which in turn restrict blood flow to tissues and organs. Hardening of the arteries is the best known cause of cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis primary cause is an unhealthy lifestyle ” “ no exercise, poor diet, and smoking.

Irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia is another form of cardiovascular disease. Irregular heartbeats are caused by:

  • Congenital heart defects or those defects that appeared at birth or before;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Coronary artery disease;
  • High stress;
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption;
  • Drug abuse;
  • Diabetes;
  • Smoking;
  • Infection.

Heart infections are called pericarditis, myocarditis, and endocarditis. These occur when a bacterium, virus or chemical hits your heart muscles.

  • Endocarditis may occur when bacteria enters your bloodstream. Every day activates such as eating or neglecting to brush your teeth regularly open a doorway for bacteria.
  • Myocarditis is caused from regular activities and also by Lyme disease or a tick-borne bacterium.
  • Influenza virus can cause heart disease. Fifth disease or the human parvovirus B19 is a cause of myocarditis. Gastrointestinal infections, Epstein-Barr or mononucleosis, rubella and some sexually transmitted infections and culprits of heart diseases.
  • Parasites can cause heart infections. These include Trypanosoma cruzi, toxoplasma and Chagas” ™ disease or a parasite carried by insects.
  • Medications can cause toxic reactions to the heart. Culprits are antibiotics like penicillin and sulfonamide drugs. Illegal substances like cocaine can cause heart infections. If you are administered medications or illegal drugs through dirty or poor needles, bacteria and viruses can be transmitted through the bloodstream straight to your heart.

Heart Diseases

Valvular

In a healthy person with a strong heart, fatal arrhythmias do not develop without environmental triggers. Triggers can be electrical shock or the use of illegal drugs.

Symptoms of a diseased heart are:

  • A diseased or deformed heart is one where the electrical impulses do not properly start or travel. You can develop valvular heart disease in the womb or when your heart”s structure changes due to age or a defect.
  • Dilated cariomyopathy means that your heart”s main pumping chamber or the left ventricle is enlarged or dilated. The pumping ability of the left ventricle becomes weak and blood flow through the heart slows down.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy involves abnormal or thickening growth of your heart muscle. This affects the muscles of your heart’s ventricle or main pumping chamber. As thickening continues the heart stiffens and the pumping chamber often shrinks.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy means the heart is stiff and does not have normal elastic properties. This is very uncommon, but does happen for no apparent reason.

When heart valves are damaged there will be stenosis or narrowing, leaking or regurgitation, improper closing or prolapse. Symptoms of any of these value problems are often fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen ankles, chest pain, and fainting.

Congenital

Congenital heart defects are those you are born with. They appear quite soon after birth and symptoms include:

Swelling in the legs, eyes and abdomen;

Shortness of breath;

Pale gray or blue skin or cyanosis

Poor weight gain.

Less invasive congenital heart disease includes:

Out of breath during exercise or activity;

Tiring during exercise or activity;

Fluid buildup in heart and lungs;

Swelling in hands, feet and ankles.

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is the thickening of the heart muscles. As this condition worsens you will experience:

Continual breathlessness;

Swelling in the feet, ankles and legs;

Bloating in the abdomen with excess fluid

Fatigue

Irregular heartbeats;

Fainting spells.

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Risks of Heart Disease

There are several risks that promote heart disease and some cannot be stopped. However if your lifestyle is healthy you will haves less of a problem with heart issues. Risks include:

  • Age. Getting older increases the risk of damaged arteries or weakened heart muscles.
  • Sex. Men tend to be more at risk. However, this is proving to be false. Heart disease is rapidly becoming the number one killer of women.
  • Unfortunately, family history of heart disease increases the risk of coronary artery disease. If a very close relative developed coronary artery disease before the age of 55, you definitely are at high risk.
  • Smoking. Nicotine constructs blood vessels and carbon monoxide damages the inner linings of blood vessels.
  • Poor diet. If you eat fatty and salty floods you may develop “bad” cholesterol distribution in your blood that will cause heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure that is untreated will result in thickening of arteries and narrowing of blood vessels.
  • High blood cholesterol. Cholesterol in your blood increases the risk of plaques and atherosclerosis formation. Plaques are caused by LDL cholesterol or the “bad” cholesterol in the blood and a low level of HDL or “good” cholesterols.
  • Diabetes. You are at high risk of heart disease if you have diabetes; especially if you are obese and have high blood pressure.
  • Obesity. Excess weight accentuates all other possible heart problems.
  • Physical activity. If you sit and do nothing you will be at high risk of heart disease.
  • High stress. Relieve the stress in your life. Stress causes damage to arteries and forces other risk factors to be more pronounced.
  • Poor hygiene. Do not wash your hand or establish prober hygiene habits and you will be at risk of heart disease. Poor dental health also contributes to heart disease.

Results

If you do not heed what your body is telling you, stop smoking, use good hygiene, eat properly and exercise regularly plus lose weight you will have:

  • Heart failure or when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet your body”s needs.
  • Heart attacks that occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through the coronary artery.  Heart attack can destroy your heart muscle.
  • Stroke or ischemic stroke can take place when the arteries to your brain are narrowed and blocked. A stroke is a medical emergency – brain tissues will die within a few minutes if no medical intervention is sought.
  • Aneurysms are complications that cause bulges in the wall of your arteries. If an aneurysm bursts, this is life threatening.
  • Peripheral artery disease cause your extremities to swell and become painful and almost unusable.

Treatments

Medications can include low blood pressure, medications diuretics, beta blockers and blood thinning medications.

Surgery can be performed to clear blockages in the heart. Coronary angioplasty can open up an artery. Coronary artery bypass surgery can be a necessity. A vein from a different part of your body is used to bypass the blocked section of an artery.

Heart arrhythmia treatments include varying types of medications or even a heart transplant or a pace maker.

Yet, the best proactive prevention to heart problems is lifestyle. The life you lead is causing your heart to become diseased and non-functioning. Stop smoking, eat a low fat and low-sodium diet and do get exercise. Try not to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, get regular checkups and have a positive life attitude.

HealthStatus Team

HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators.The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.
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