Heart Disease: Types, Causes and Prevention

The human heart is the most vital organ in the human body. It is the power supply to the entire body and serves as the relentless engine driving the ceaseless rhythm of life. Through a symphony of contractions and expansions, it pumps life-sustaining blood and oxygen to every organ of the body. This steady flow also carries with it hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. This is called circulation. On average, the heart beats 72 times every minute - over 100,000 times per day.


Despite the fact that a healthy heart is central to an individual’s overall health, many individuals overlook potential heart problems until they become significant. There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a broad term used to describe all conditions affecting the heart and circulatory system. These factors may include:


  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight or obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Prediabetes or diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Have a history of preeclampsia - a sudden rise in blood pressure
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Stress
  • Women aged 55 and older, and men aged 45 and older


What Is Heart Disease?


It refers to a group of conditions affecting the heart. When someone thinks of heart disease, the most common types are coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attacks. However, it is much bigger than that and may include different parts of the heart, including heart muscle, valves or electrical system. There are several types of heart disease, each with its own symptoms and treatment. Here are some examples:


Arrhythmia: It refers to an abnormal heart rhythm. It may feel like a fluttering, pounding or racing heartbeat. However, some heart arrhythmias are harmless. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart damage that can trigger some heart arrhythmias.


Atherosclerosis: It occurs due to plaque build-up in the inner lining of an artery. Plaque comprises of deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, and cellular waste products. The condition may cause chest pain and shortness of breath and symptoms include fatigue and muscle weakness in the legs.


Coronary artery disease (CAD): It occurs when major blood vessels that supply the heart (coronary arteries) struggle to send enough blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. In other words, it refers to the narrowing or blockage of coronary arteries. CAD is known as the “silent killer” because an individual might not have any symptoms until a heart attack occurs. Plaque build-up and inflammation are the most common causes of CAD.


Cardiomyopathy: It is a disease which makes the heart muscle work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body, potentially leading to heart failure.


Heart infections: It is a condition caused by viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. For instance, endocarditis is an infection of the endocardium, the innermost layer of the heart, lining the interiors of the four heart chambers and heart valves.


Why Is It Important To Assess Heart Health?


A thorough assessment of heart health may give valuable insights into an individual’s cardiovascular system, enabling the doctor to better understand the intricate dynamics of the heart's functioning and its impact on overall well-being. Understanding the status of heart health makes it easy to identify the potential risks, allowing for the formulation of proactive strategies to mitigate those risks. The assessment may involve these steps:


1. Discussion: Your doctor may examine you and ask several questions related to your personal and family medical history. To explore factors influencing your risk of heart disease, you may be asked questions related to your smoking habits, diabetes, medications and overall health.


2. Check-up: For thorough assessment, your doctor may assess critical health indicators such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.


3. Procedure: Your doctor may work with you to plan out a personalised plan to mitigate the risk of heart attack or stroke. This may include ways to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes, potential referrals to support programs and prescriptions for blood pressure or cholesterol-lowering medications.


Benefits Of Regular Heart Check-ups


It is very important to identify heart problems early on. Regular heart check-ups and health screenings may aid in the early detection of heart problems before they become significant. If an individual develops symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, fluttering in the chest, a slow or racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue and swelling in the feet or abdomen, it is important to consult a doctor immediately. If the test results indicate a higher risk of developing heart-related issues, your doctor may prescribe further diagnostic tests.



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