An Overview of Common Heart Diseases

Dr. Amir

It is a common notion to think that heart disease is the same as coronary artery disease or what is known as the narrowing of the arteries that connect to the heart. In truth, heart disease encompasses a lot of conditions and coronary heart disease is just one type of heart disease.

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is composed of many conditions that affect the heart including its structure and functions. Some of these conditions include coronary heart disease like heart attacks, heart valve disease, heart muscle disease or cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart rhythms or arrythmias, pericardial disease, vascular disease or blood vessel disease, Marfan syndrome, and aorta disease.

Since 2007, heart disease has been recorded as the leading cause of death in some developed countries such as the United States, Canada, England, and Wales. Of all deaths recorded in the US that year, 25.4% came from heart disease fatalities.

Common Types of Heart Diseases

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease like heart attack results from the hardening of arteries. There is some damage to the arteries because of chronic infection and inflammation. In effect, the body makes use of cholesterol and calcium to try and cover the holes. In some cases, this process fails to stop resulting in excessive build up of calcium and cholesterol in the walls of the artery. Gradually, the arteries become more narrow producing discomfort and chest pain, more commonly known as angina. When the clogging becomes so extreme that blood flow is completely blocked, a heart attack happens.

When a person experiences heart attack, it is crucial that emergency medical treatment is performed as fast as possible. People who feel discomfort in the chest, shortened breaths, or sudden body pains at the back or arm should call for an ambulance immediately. Timely medical treatment can prevent fatalities due to heart attacks.

Arrhythmia / Abnormal Heart Rhythms

The rhythm of the heart is coordinated by the electrical system of the heart. The normal heart rhythm is between 60 and 100 each minute. Disrupting the electrical system that controls the heart rhythm can cause abnormal heart beats. Many arrhythmias are considered benign or mild, but when a serious arrhythmia occurs, it can often result to sudden cardiac death.

Heart Failure

When the heart weakens due to many underlying factors, the heart may soon fail. The heart does not actually stop working. Rather, it does not pump as much blood as it should. This can lead to the retention of salt and water. When this happens, swelling of the heart and shortness of breath may occur, both of which are the main symptoms of heart failure.

Heart failure is a leading health issue tackled by the health sector in the United States. It affects close to 5 million Americans with about 550,000 more diagnosed with the condition each year. Heart failure is the main cause of hospitalization among people aged 65 years and above.

Heart Valve Disease

This disease includes many disorders involving the abnormal function of the valves of the heart. When the regulation of blood flow is unnatural because of the flaps in the heart's chambers become ineffective, heart conditions may occur such as heart failure.

The valves of the heart are located at each of the exits of the four heart chambers and these valves make sure there is a one-way flow of blood through the heart. Some examples of heart valve disease include aortic stenosis, mitral valve prolapse, and mitral valve insufficiency.

Congenital Heart Disease

This heart disease may be suffered by patients with a genetic birth defect specifically in at least one structure of the heart or its blood vessels. In severe cases, sufferers of congenital heart defects may be required to undergo surgery to try and correct the problem.

This disease affects eight out of 1,000 children around the world. What is alarming is that in some cases, congenital heart disease symptoms are only be noticed during adulthood.

Although the cause of this disease is not known, many doctors and scientists believe heredity plays a role. Another theory is that the fetus is exposed to harmful conditions such as viral infections, drugs, or alcohol during pregnancy.

Cardiomyopathies / Heart Muscle Disease

When the muscles of the heart become enlarged, thick, and stiff, the result can be ineffectiveness in pumping blood which may cause heart disease.

Cardiomyopathies or enlarged heart, result to people having hearts that are abnormal in size and thickened or stiffened. Because of this, the heart cannot pump blood as effectively as it should. Cardiomyopathies can become worse and in many cases leads to abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure.

Pericardial disease / Pericarditis

When the pericardium or the thin membrane surrounding the heart becomes inflamed, heart problems usually follow. This disease is very rare and is mostly caused by an infection.

Vascular Disease

Also known as blood vessel disease, vascular disease affects mainly the blood circulation all over the body. This damages the heart because of decrease in the sufficient amounts of blood.

Myocarditis

Myocarditis is a heart infection occurring when the body is under a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. It can also occur after the infection.

Mafan Syndrome and Aorta Disease

The aorta is the heart's large artery that supplies blood rich with oxygen for the entire body. Mafan syndrome and aorta disease can cause the aorta to dilate or dissect. When the aorta dissects, it tears and when it dilates, it widens. This results to a higher probability of experiencing life-threatening conditions in the future such as atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries, genetic conditions such as Marfan Syndrome, high blood pressure, injury, and connective tissue disorders. Connective tissue disorders affect the walls of the blood vessels and include conditions such as scleroderma, polycystic kidney disease, Turner's syndrome, and osteogenesis imperfecta.

People suffering from any type of aorta disease should see a team of cardiovascular specialists including trained surgeons.

Other Vascular Diseases

Vascular diseases are those conditions that can affect the body's circulation of blood. Conditions include artery diseases and ineffective flow of blood to the brain.

The risk of experiencing heart disease rises with age or if there is a family history with the disease. Contributors to heart disease include high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, and diabetes.