Heart disease is a collective term for the more than 50 different diseases that can affect the heart. Diseases of the heart are the number one cause of death in America. It is therefore important to be informed about the types of heart disease that can occur and the symptoms and treatments associated with each one.
1. Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary Artery Disease affects more than 13 million people in the United States, and is the number one cause of death in America. It occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and causes blockages. These blockages restrict blood flow to the heart, preventing oxygen and other nutrients from reaching the heart and allowing it to pump properly.
As an individual ages, plaque builds up in the walls of his coronary arteries. Chemicals are released from this plaque that can promote healing, but they also make the blood vessel’s inner walls sticky. This can cause other substances traveling in the bloodstream to stick to the walls and cause blockages. These blockages can become so severe that they may totally stop the flow of blood from reaching the heart. If this happens, a heart attack occurs.
2. Congenital Heart Disease
Another common form of heart disease is congenital heart disease. This is not something that develops over time, but is a condition that an individual is born with. It is a defect in the heart that is present before birth. Symptoms of the disease may not appear until later in adulthood and include shortness of breath, especially when participating in strenuous exercises.
There are different types of congenital heart disease that affect different parts of the heart. Some of these include heart valve defects, atrial or ventricular defects and abnormalities in the heart muscle.
Congenital heart disease in an unborn fetus can be caused by numerous things including rubella, the use of drugs or smoking during pregnancy and Down Syndrome.
3. Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive Heart Failure is the number one reason why Americans 65 and older are hospitalized. Nearly 6 million Americans are affected by this condition. The term failure may be a bit of a misnomer in that the heart does not stop working completely. Rather, it pumps much more weakly than normal. Blood is moved through the body at a slower rate, causing pressure in the heart to increase. When this happens, the heart’s chambers may either stretch in order to hold more blood or become stiff and thickened. This can help to keep blood pumping through the body, but eventually the heart muscles will weaken and stop being able to pump efficiently.
When the heart is unable to pump efficiently, the kidneys may begin to retain the body’s fluid and salt. This fluid can build up in the body and cause it to become congested. This is why the disease is known as congestive heart failure.
4. Pulmonary Heart Disease
Pulmonary heart disease is something that affects the heart and lungs. The blood flow to the lungs is either not adequate or blocked completely. This results in pressure building on the lungs. Symptoms of this disease include shortness of breath, fainting and chest pain.
Pulmonary heart disease is often misdiagnosed, allowing the disease to progress to later stages where it is extremely difficult to treat. When caught early, there are treatments available that can give the patient a good prognosis.
5. Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic heart disease is the presence of abnormalities in the valves of the heart that are caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever often causes the heart to become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to damage of the heart valves. The condition tends to worsen over time, especially if there are recurring episodes of rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic heart disease can drastically increase the heart’s workload, eventually leading to heart failure. It commonly involves atrial fibrillation which can lead to blood clots and stroke. This is why patients with this disease are often put on a regime of blood thinners.
Once an individual has been diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, it is vitally important that he has regular physical examinations in order to monitor the condition of his heart. Since the disease tends to progress over time, eventually the patient will most likely require valve replacement surgery.
These are just 5 of the more than 50 types of heart disease that affect the heart. As with virtually every disease, early detection is important for improving the patient’s prognosis.
Lauren Hill writes for Cardiac Vascular & Thoracic Surgery Associates (CVTSA), a VA surgery group specializing in robotic, heart/ lung transplant and open heart surgeries. Take a look here and see how they can help you.