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- What is Heart Disease?
- Diagnosing Heart Disease
- What Causes Heart Disease?
- Help for Heart Disease
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What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the umbrella term used to describe a number of medical conditions affecting the heart and the blood vessels supplying the heart.
While many people seem to believe heart disease is an illusive ailment, it has become increasingly common. Statistics from 2007 have revealed that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.
There are a number of conditions that fall under this term, including the following:
- Congenital heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Coronary artery disease (CAD)
- Hypertensive heart disease
- Inflammatory heart disease
- Valvular heart disease
Identifying the Differences between Types of Heart Disease
- Arrhythmias: These are irregularities of the heart beat which can either be completely harmless or extremely dangerous, increasing your chances of other heart problems.
- Cardiomyopathy: Also known as disease of the heart muscle.
- Congenital heart disease: This refers to a number of heart conditions that are present at birth and may be diagnosed antenatally, shortly after birth or later in the life of an individual.
- Congestive heart failure: This is a condition that can result from any heart-related problem that causes the heart to struggle to pump sufficient blood through the body. The result is that many of the body’s organs are then deprived of essential blood supplies.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD) otherwise known as coronary heart disease (CHD): This is the most common type of heart disease which causes the arteries to harden and narrow (usually as a result of plaque build up), thus restricting blood flow to the heart. CAD is also the leading cause of angina and heart attacks.
- Hypertensive heart disease: Caused by high blood pressure.
- Inflammatory heart disease: An inflammation of the heart muscle and/or the tissue surrounding it.
- Valvular heart disease: This term refers to any heart disease involving one or more of the heart valves.
Diagnosing Heart Disease
Each type of heart disease has different symptoms, although many of these symptoms may be similar.
Some commonly experienced heart-related symptoms which may suggest signs of underlying heart disease include:
- Angina: This is the term used to describe chest pain and discomfort often present in serious heart problems. Angina can be experienced as heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or a painful feeling in your chest. It is often mistaken for indigestion or heartburn.
- Shortness of breath
- Irregularities in heart beat which can be felt as palpitations, or noticeable changes in speed of heart rate
- Dizziness or fainting
- Weakness or fatigue
- Swelling of your ankles, feet or abdomen (edema)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cough or wheezing
- Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and lips)
What Causes Heart Disease?
Heart disease is caused by a number of factors. The two categories of risk factors are major and contributing. Major risk factors are those proven to increase your risk of a heart-related disease. Contributing risk factors are the ones doctors consider can lead to heart disease, although their exact role remains undefined.
Major risk factors in developing heart disease include:
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
Contributing risk factors in the development of heart disease include:
- Birth control pills
- Sex hormones
Help for Heart Disease
If you experience heart-related symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention so that tests can be performed and the necessary treatment provided. If you ever feel that you may be experiencing a heart attack, take action as soon as possible and call 911.
More Information on Heart Disease
Tips to Prevent Heart Disease
Being aware of heart disease is important. While the statistics are high, developing heart disease can be drastically reduced by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Below are a few steps to help prevent heart disease:
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Prolonged high blood pressure can dramatically increase your chances of developing heart disease.
- Don’t smoke. If you do, consider quitting smoking naturally.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is dangerous for the heart, so try and maintain a stable, healthy weight. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and a little help from a reputable weight-loss program can help you achieve your ideal goal weight.
- Learning to manage stress levels is essential. Stress puts unnecessary strain on the heart and the immune system, making it essential to take care of your emotional well-being. If stress is a problem, consider making necessary life changes or adopting stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, Pilates, or meditation.
- Regularly check cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease and heart attacks. Cholesterol clogs the arteries and restricts blood flow to and from the heart.
- Get tested for diabetes. If you are diabetic, be sure to manage your condition efficiently. Having diabetes raises your chances of getting heart disease, not to mention other health concerns.
- Eat a heart-friendly diet low in fats, salt, calories, and red meat, and high in vegetables, fruits and fiber. Eating healthy does not have to be boring. Learn to use the numerous available resources that offer tips to preparing quick, tasty, and heart-healthy meals.
- Stay physically active. Try to find time in the day to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise. An exercise routine is one of the best ways to keep your heart and mind in top form. It is advisable that you consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
- It is recommended that alcohol consumption be limited to one drink a day, preferably with a meal. Studies have shown that red wine is an excellent source of antioxidants and may aid in preventing bad cholesterol (LDL) from forming. It is also believed that red wine may prevent blood clots and aid in reducing blood vessel damage that is sometimes caused by fat deposits.