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Heart disease, or cardiac disease, describes an assortment of conditions that affect your heart and blood vessels. These conditions include things such as coronary heart disease, or congenital heart defects, which you’re born with. While both the terms heart disease and cardiovascular disease are used interchangeably, cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrow or blocked blood vessels, which lead to other heart conditions, including heart attack.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, though in 2009, more than 50 percent of heart disease deaths were in men. Annually, 610,000 Americans, or 1 in 4, will die from heart disease. Every 42 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack, and every minute, someone dies due to a heart disease-related event. While some forms of heart disease cannot be prevented, such as congenital heart defects, many can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices and basic understanding.
Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms of heart disease, and for some people, having a stroke or heart attack is the first warning sign. Symptoms will be dependent upon which type of heart disease you have.
The most common symptom is angina or chest pain, but other symptoms include:
Symptoms will typically last 30 minutes or longer and will not be relieved by rest. Symptoms may start as minor discomfort and elevate to significant pain, and some people will even have a heart attack without having any symptoms.
An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm, which may include the following symptoms:
Heart failure may be a chronic, or sudden condition. Symptoms of heart failure include:
Often, heart failure develops due to other conditions weakening or damaging your heart. Though heart failure occurs when your heart is weakened, it can also occur if the heart becomes too stiff.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a disease of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD causes decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. If arteries become blocked or severely narrowed, the heart is unable to pump the oxygen and nutrients needed.
Heart attacks occur when a coronary artery becomes blocked, stopping the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Heart attacks cause damage to heart muscles, which can cause them not to work properly.
Cardiomyopathy is damage to the heart muscle from other causes aside from artery or blood flow problems. These causes may be from infections, alcohol, or drug abuse.
Other conditions that can contribute to congestive heart failure are as follows:
After describing your symptoms to a healthcare provider, you will most likely be referred to a heart specialist or cardiologist. To confirm a diagnosis, the cardiologist will perform a full physical exam and may order a number of tests to examine heart valves, blood vessels, and chambers. Some of these tests may include:
Depending on how your condition has progressed and your overall health, a cardiologist may prescribe medications that include:
If medications alone are not enough to treat congestive heart failure, there are surgical procedures that may help including an angioplasty, or heart valve repair surgery.
There are many things you can do to keep heart failure from worsening:
The most popular not-for-profit that focuses on heart disease is the American Heart Association. Their mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. However, other not-for-profits include: The Heart Foundation, Children’s Heart Foundation, and One Million Hearts, a byproduct of the Department of Health and Human Services.See All Answers »
The most common heart disease in senior citizens is coronary artery disease. It’s caused by the narrowing and/or blockage of blood vessels that supply the heart. For more information on coronary artery disease or other heart diseases, check out World Heart Federation’s list of heart diseases.See All Answers »