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Overview of Heart Disease

The Heart is the life source for the human body. The downward pear shaped highly muscular organ set behind the chest bone and functions in two ways. It adds oxygen to the blood and circulates it throughout the body, then receives deoxygenated blood and adds oxygen to it and goes through the process again. It also sends carbon-dioxide, the by-product of the blood oxidization process, to the lungs to discharge from the body.

Heart diseases are the disruption of this process resulting in serious health problems and fitness. There are four chambers and six blood vessels in the heart. A problem can occur with any of these chambers or blood vessels. Accordingly, there are different types of heart diseases. But whatever the type, it is always a serious problem when the vital pumping function of the heart is affected.

By the time heart problems are detected, the underlying cause (atherosclerosis) is usually quite advanced, having progressed for decades. There is therefore increased emphasis on preventing atherosclerosis by modifying risk factors, such as healthy eating, exercise and avoidance of smoking.

Symptoms of Heart Diseases

Heart diseases have many symptoms and vary from one type of heart disease to another. In the beginning stages, no particular symptoms may be detected. But the heart can be affected suddenly with moderate or severe symptoms. There are several primary symptoms and tell tale signs of the heart diseases. These are chest pain, unnecessary sweating, sudden, coldness, nausea, weakness, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, abnormally slow or fast beating of the heart, or irregular beating of the heart. Heart disease can also be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back.

However to be more specific about the symptoms, it is necessary to know about the different types of heart diseases and their corresponding symptoms as well as causes.

Types of Heart Diseases

There is ongoing research to classify different types of heart diseases in a single form and to include all types of symptoms and causes. But overall there are four major types of heart diseases;

Coronary heart disease:

Also called coronary artery disease is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis.

Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. It is the most prevalent cause of death of men and women in the United States. It can be corrected with lifestyle changes, supplements, pharmaceuticals and medical procedures in most cases.

Peripheral Arterial Disease:

Peripheral arterial disease, also known as atherosclerotic peripheral arterial disease, can occur when fatty material called plaque builds up on the inside walls of the arteries carrying blood from the heart to the head, internal organs, and limbs. The buildup of this plaque on the arterial walls is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis causes the arteries to narrow or become blocked, which can reduce or block blood flow.

Blocked blood flow can cause pain and numbness. It may increase the chance of getting infections, and pose a difficulty in fighting infections. If severe enough, blocked blood flow can cause gangrene and amputation.

Peripheral arterial disease increases the risk of coronary heart disease by six or seven times, thereby, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, or mini stroke. Peripheral arterial disease increases the chance of having blocked arteries in the legs. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent disability and save lives.

Plaque buildup in the arteries may be stopped or reversed with dietary changes, exercise, and efforts to control cholesterol and blood pressure. Blood flow in the vessels may be improved with supplements, pharmaceuticals or surgery.

Congestive Heart failure:

"Heart failure" doesn’t mean the heart has stopped or is about to stop working. However, it’s a serious condition and requires medical care. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump blood the way it should. In some cases, the heart can’t fill with enough blood. In other cases, the heart can’t send blood to the rest of the body with enough force. In some cases both problems exist.

When the right side of the heart fails the heart can’t pump blood to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen. When the left side of the heart fails the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Right-side heart failure may cause fluid to build up in the feet, ankles, legs, liver, abdomen, and, rarely, the veins in the neck. Right and left side heart failure also causes shortness of breath and fatigue.

Taking steps to prevent coronary heart disease can help prevent heart failure. The steps include following a heart healthy diet, not smoking, doing physical activity, and losing weight if you’re overweight or obese. Working with your doctor to control high blood pressure and diabetes also can help prevent heart failure.

Heart Valve Disease:

Heart valve disease is a condition in which one or more of the heart valves are not working properly. Some types of congenital heart valve disease are so severe the valve has to be repaired or replaced during infancy or childhood. The heart has four valves: the tricuspid, pulmonar, mitral, and aortic valves. These valves have flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. The flaps make sure blood flows in the right direction through your heart's four chambers and to the rest of the body.

Many people having heart valve defects or disease but don't have symptoms. For some, the condition remains the same throughout their life and causes no problems. For others, the condition may worsen until symptoms develop. If untreated, advanced heart valve disease may cause heart failure, stroke, blood clots, or sudden death due to sudden heart attack.

Risk Factors of Heart Diseases

It has been estimated in the year 2007 that one patient dies of heart disease every 34 seconds in the USA alone. It has taken a stature of epidemic proportions in the modern world with this high rate. It is the major cause of death in England, Wales, Canada and in many other parts of the world. If undetected and untreated, heart disease will cause death.

Continuous disease of heart can affect other organs as well. It may disrupt the proper functioning of the lungs, the liver and kidneys. As in most cases, it is sometimes undetectable in the beginning stages for lack of symptoms; so therein lies the high risk factors which cause severe damage. If proper steps are not taken sudden severe chest pains will be frequent along with irregular heartbeats, breathlessness, nausea, weakness and other symptoms. Gradually it will affect other organs leading to total failure of body organs and ultimately to a sudden premature death.

Next Steps:

Poor health can significantly affect your life. Improve your life by changing to good health. Call our patient coordinator at 1-212-679-9667 or click on Request an Appointment to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors for evaluation and testing.

We are located at: Patients Medical PC, 800 Second Avenue, Suite 900 (Between 42nd & 43rd Street), Manhattan, NYC, New York, NY 10017.

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Article Last Updated: 08/26/2015