Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease or heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Both cardiovascular disease and heart disease are blanket terms used to collectively refer to a variety of diseases/medical conditions that affect the heart. These diseases can affect blood supply to the heart, the heart (cardiac) muscle, heart beat/rate, heart valves, the amount and rate of blood pumped through the heart, and/or the tissues around the heart that support the health and function of the heart. Though all conditions of the heart are serious and can be life threatening, coronary heart disease is the most prevalent and the most common cause of death within the United States.

Types of heart disease

Coronary artery disease is the hardening of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque.  The result is a narrower passageway through which oxygen and nutrients travel to the heart.

Learn more about Coronary artery disease

Heart valve disease is a collective term for ailments that affect the structure and function of the heart valves.  Specific conditions that affect the heart valves include mitral valve prolapsed, aortic stenosis and mitral valve insufficiency.

Congenital heart disease occurs in the heart before birth and can affect structures of the heart or blood vessels.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the how the actual heart muscle works.  This disease, if untreated, can lead to heart failure or arrhythmia.

Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium, which is the thin, tissue surrounding the heart.  Pericarditis is a rare and usually short-term disease that may arise with chest pain, and is often caused by infection.

Examples of other conditions that may influence the function of the heart include aorta disease, Marfan syndrome, arrhythmia and heart failure.  Aorta disease can lead to aneurisms and Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that may harm the aorta and other areas of the body.  Arrhythmia is an irregular or abnormal heart beat that can result in a change of heart rate, and heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump blood as it should.

Ways to prevent heart disease

Heart disease can stem from a number of things, including genetic predisposition, lifestyle and medical history.  It is important to know your immediate family medical history and to behave proactively with regard to diet, exercise and making choices such as choosing not to smoke.  Controlling diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and stress levels are also crucial to preventing heart disease.

For more information about the heart and ways to keep it healthy, click here.