A Visual Guide to Heart Disease

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease

Any medical condition that affects the working of the heart is considered a heart disease. It covers a broad range of conditions. However, many of us fail to understand this and picture a heart stroke, the moment the term ‘heart disease’ gets mentioned. Medical science today describes various kinds of diseases related to this life pumping organ. Common ones are arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, heart failure and artery disease.

Clogged arteries

Blood from the heart is transported to the different parts of the body through blood vessels known as arteries. Clogged arteries by its name refers to a condition in which the passage of the blood through these vessels gets blocked or narrowed, which ultimately results in a heart attack. This so happens due to the buildup of fat and cholesterol over a period of time. People suffering from obesity are more prone to this condition.

However, many of them stay unaware about this prevailing disease in their chests until an artery gets clogged and they suffer a heart attack. While some with a coronary status of this disease receive warning signs of it in the form of frequent chest pains known as ‘Angina’.

Heart attack

The sticky plaque of fat and cholesterol which gets stuck in the chest region is of a nature of mushy on the inside and hard on the outside. Due to too much hardening, sometimes the outer hard portion gets cracked, leading to the development of a blood clot. As a result, the affected part of the heart gets deprived of blood supply. This sudden shortage of blood quickly starts damaging the heart and therefore a possible death for the person. Occurrence of such an even requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms leading to heart attack

  • Nausea
  • Indigestion or heart burn
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety or shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Discomfort in the back, jaw, throat or arm
  • Pain in the chest

How it effects women

Compared to men, women are very less likely to feel any sort of discomfort in the chest area. However, chances of heart burn or heart flutter, with loss of appetite, cough, tiredness or weakness are the possible symptoms of a heart attack in women. Medical treatment is highly advised on continued occurrences of these symptoms.

Types of heart diseases

Arrhythmia

Human heart works on electrical impulses. Its contraction and relaxation solely depends on the impulses it receives, which in turn creates a sort of rhythm in the functioning of the heart. The medical condition of Arrhythmia is such it fluctuates the rhythm of the heart, causing the organ to pump faster or slower than normal.

Such fluctuations are usually harmless and the heart gets back to its normal rhythm quickly. However, the condition can effect in a serious manner in some rare cases. On persistence of anything unusual, visit your doctor immediately.

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy directly takes its toll on the muscles of the heart. Thus, it is also considered as a heart muscle disease. On occurrence of this disease, blood pumping to the different parts of the body gets tough for the muscles of the heart. There lies various causes for this heart condition. Major ones are obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Heart failure

Heart failure is a medical term that doctors use when the heart fails to pump enough blood to meet the requirements of the body. Causes can be many, starting from coronary artery disease to the weakening of heart muscles.

Congenital heart defect

Some infants are born with a leaky valve which separates the chambers of the heart. In other words, it is the condition of a damaged heart wall that sometimes go undetected until one turns adult. As one gets born with such a defect, he/she is more likely to develop the condition of heart failure and arrhythmia. Medical treatment or surgery is usually required to fix the problem.

Sudden Cardiac death

One must not consider it as a normal heart attack as the chances of a possible death are very high in this case. In this condition, the heart’s electrical system tends to lose control, making the organ beat enormously and dangerously fast. Amidst such an irregularity, the chambers of the heart fail to pump out the blood to the body in a proper manner. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the most commonly used treatment to save the life of the victim in this case.

Diagnosis

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

ECG or electrocardiogram is a kind of test that keeps a check on the heart’s electrical activity. Completely painless, the test requires sticking of electrodes on the skin of the patient which then give a clear picture of the beats of the heart. ECG is very helpful in assessing the health of the heart and in detecting any previous incidents of a heart attack.

Stress test

This test involves monitoring the functioning of the heart as it undergoes certain degrees of stress. In this, the patient is made to walk on a treadmill or a stationary bike. Eventually the difficulty of the stress gets increased, leaving the doctor or examiner with a pattern of the functioning of the heart.

Holter Monitor

It is a device that is used to monitor the working of the heart. Unlike the ECG, Holter Monitor tracks the heart for a longer duration; a day or two. The portable device is attached to the chest area and the patient can carry on with his normal routine. Hence, it is a nice alternative to know how the heart reacts during different situations.

Chest X-rays

In order to detect any sort of physical change in the structure of the heart, Chest X-rays are highly reliable. Enlargement of different chambers or valves can be easily traced with the help of this procedure.

Echocardiogram

Echocardiogram makes use of ultrasound waves to detect live, moving images of the valves, chambers and blood flow in the heart. Diagnosing of various kinds of heart diseases as well as checking of the effectiveness of the treatments are the prime applications of this process.

Cardiac CT

It is an advanced process of x-ray imaging which involves obtaining 3D images of the heart and its blood vessels. With the help of Cardiac CT, doctors can easily have a look of the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Valve problems can also be detected by the use of cardiac CT.

Cardiac Catheterization

This process of heart diagnosis involves inserting of a narrow tube inside the body through a blood vessel that may connects your arm or leg. The tube which is made in use is known as Catheter and is inserted deep till it reaches the heart. Its second phase involves injecting a special dye into the coronary arteries that in turn highlights them in the x-ray.  In this way, doctors can clearly diagnose heart blockages with the help of Cardiac Catheterization.

Treatment

Angioplasty

Angioplasty is commonly preferred for opening a blocked artery and thereby improving blood flow in the body. In the process, a thin tube known as Catheter tied with a balloon on one end is inserted in to the blocked artery. On reaching the blockage the balloon is filled with air, which when inflated clears the blockage and allows the blood to move freely. The doctor may put a small mesh tube known as the stent to keep the artery open.

Bypass surgery

This type of procedure is opted in case a person is suffering from more than one blocked artery or the artery has turned too narrow or blocked. In the process, a blood vessel from the chest, belly, legs or arms is attached to the healthy artery in the heart, after being removed from the original position. In this way, the blocked blood is set free by the process of bypass.

Daily habits to prevent heart diseases

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Balanced diet
  • Regular exercise (30 minutes)
  • Limit on alcohol intake (One drink a day for women, two a day for men)

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