Heart Diseases: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Heart diseases basically include conditions that affect the heart, such as coronary heart attack, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease. The total number of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases is alarming. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the world, according to WHO (World Health Organisation). It was reported that around 17.7 million people die of cardiovascular diseases in a year.

Types of Heart Diseases

There are many different types of heart disease. Some of these diseases are congenital but a majority of them take time to develop and affect people later in life. Some of the most common heart diseases are:

Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease is caused due to plaque build-up inside the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries provide oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. The heart muscle needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to function appropriately. Any interruption in the blood supply can cause damage to the heart muscle. The amount of damage caused depends on the size of the region supplied by the blocked artery and other factors such as the time between injury and treatment.

Arrhythmia means abnormal heart rhythms. These are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or too fast. They can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain. If left untreated, arrhythmia can be life-threatening.

Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth. These defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart. Our heart has two sides, separated by an inner wall called the septum. With each heartbeat, the right side of your heart receives oxygen-poor blood from your body and pumps it to your lungs. The left side of your heart receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it to your body. It is also known as ischemic heart disease.

This is a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries, causing them to harden. Arteries are the type of blood vessels that take oxygen-rich blood from the heart to all parts of the body. Plaque formed in the arteries is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other elements present in the blood. The build-up of the plaque occurs over many years. The plaque hardens slowly and causes the arteries to lose their elasticity. It also causes narrowing of the arteries. This leads to a reduction in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of the body.

Cardiomyopathy refers to the medical condition of the heart in which the heart muscle enlarges and becomes thick or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissues inside the heart get replaced by the scar tissue. Typically, cardiomyopathy is a group of diseases that are related to the heart muscle and each type has different causes, symptoms as well as treatments.

Heart Infections
Heart infections may be caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. It is used to describe conditions such as myocarditis and endocarditis.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Coronary Artery Disease
Symptoms of coronary artery disease depend on the severity of artery blockage. Many people may only fell unwell or have symptoms such as indigestion when they are actually having symptoms of CAD.

Some of the symptoms of coronary artery diseases include:

Profuse sweating
Chest pain on the left side associated with difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
Physical exertion due to climbing stairs, doing exercise, etc.
Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing on exertion
Some people may experience back pain, shoulders, or jaw pain, especially on the left side either during exertion or at rest
Rapid or strong heartbeats
Unexplained fatigue or tiredness on exertion or at rest
Dizziness, light-headedness or fainting
Irregular heartbeat

Arrhythmia causes symptoms which may not be very evident. It is possible that you may see no symptoms at all. A health care provider can detect a problem with your heartbeat during a physical exam. The symptoms of arrhythmia include:

Pounding in the chest
Dizziness or the feeling of light headedness
Discomfort in the chest
The feeling of a skipped heartbeat or palpitations
Fatigue or weakness

Congenital Heart Defects
Many congenital heart defects have few or no signs or symptoms. Some heart defects do have signs and symptoms depending on the number, type, and severity of the defects. Severe defects can cause signs and symptoms, usually in newborns. These signs and symptoms may include:

Poor blood circulation
Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails)
Rapid breathing
Irregular heart rhythm
Irregular heart rhythm

A mild form of atherosclerosis usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. The symptoms do not appear until an artery is so clogged that it can’t supply the adequate blood to the organs and tissues of the body. Symptoms depend upon the severity of the condition:

Sudden numbness, weakness in your arms or legs
Chest pain or pressure
Pain in the leg when walking
High blood pressure
Kidney failure
Erectile dysfunction, low blood flow to the vagina

Cardiomyopathy refers to the medical condition of the heart in which the heart muscle enlarges and becomes thick or rigid. Symptoms of this disease include:

Shortness of breath
Pounding or rapid pulse
Swollen legs (ankles and feet)

Heart Infections
Symptoms of heart infection include:

Skin rash
Chest pain

Risk Factors & Causes of Heart Diseases
Coronary Artery Disease

Family history of the disease
Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus
Lack of physical activity
Continuous stress
Excessive alcohol consumption
Sedentary Lifestyle
High cholesterol
High blood pressure

There are various factors contributing to a slow or an increased heart rate. These causes include:

Injury caused by a heart attack
Imbalance of electrolyte in the blood
Changes in the muscle of your heart
Coronary artery disease
The healing process that takes place after a heart surgery
Abnormal heart rhythms that can also take place in healthy hearts

Congenital Heart Defects
It not always clear why a baby suffers from a congenital heart defect. Things that trigger the disease are:

Taking certain medications or alcohol during pregnancy
Problems with genes or chromosomes in the child, like Down syndrome
If a woman in her first trimester of pregnancy suffers from a viral infection

Atherosclerosis usually starts when you are a young adult and increase with age. The exact cause of atherosclerosis is not known, but factors that increase the risk of atherosclerosis include:

Family history of atherosclerosis
High blood levels of LDL cholesterol
High blood pressure or hypertension
Smoking and alcohol consumption
Being obese or overweight
Eating high-fat diet
Sedentary lifestyle
Eating high-fat diet
Thyroid disease
Viral infections of the heart
Severe coronary artery disease
Drugs that damage the heart
Heart valve abnormalities

Heart Infections
There are two types of heart infections: myocarditis and endocarditis.

Causes of Myocarditis

Epstein - Barr virus
Hepatitis C

Symptoms of Endocarditis

Oral cavities
Needles used for tattoos
Dental procedures
Drug use
Congenital heart defects
Damaged heart valves
Artificial heart valves

Important Tests for your Heart
When ultrasound is used to examine the cardiovascular anatomy and hemodynamics, it is known as echocardiography. The procedure is performed by a cardiac sonographer who has specialised in the field of echocardiography working in close contact with the patient throughout the procedure. The echo can show the areas of heart muscles which are not contracting properly due to poor blood caused by an injury or a heart attack. With help of an echo the blood clots formed inside the heart, a fluid buildup in the pericardium, and problems with the aorta can be detected.

An electrocardiogram is done to record the electrical activity of the heart. The EKG machine detects the electrical impulses that contract the heart. The EKG helps in identifying the cause of symptoms such as palpitations or chest pain. The EKG is a painless and harmless test.

Cardiac CT
Cardiac computed tomography (CT) is a painless test that uses an x-ray machine to take clear, detailed pictures of your heart. This common test is used to look for problems in the heart.

Heart MRI
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a noninvasive and effective technique that creates detailed scans of the organs and tissue, without any risk. Since it is a noninvasive test method, it doesn't involve any discomfort or pain. Cardiac MRI is a safe test that allows cardiologists to see the heart in detail. It provides more detailed scans of the heart than any other imaging technique that can be used to scan the heart. Cardiac MRI is a fast and accurate test to detect areas of the heart that aren't functioning properly, are scared or have a poor blood supply.

Nuclear Heart Scan
A nuclear heart scan is a test that uses a safe, radioactive substance to provide important information about the health of your heart. The radioactive substance also called a radiotracer is injected into the bloodstream through a vein where it travels to the heart and releases energy. A special camera outside of the body detects the uptake energy of the radioactive substance and creates pictures of the heart. Although the test uses a safe radioactive subst


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