Heart disease describes a variety of conditions that affect your heart. Heart diseases include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems; and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects), among others. The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.” Cardiovascular disease refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.
There are many types of heart disease that affect different parts of the organ and occur in different ways.
- Congenital heart disease
This is a general term for some deformities of the heart that have been present since birth. Examples are:
Septal defects: There is a hole between the two chambers of the heart.
Obstruction defects: The flow of blood through various chambers of the heart is blocked.
Cyanotic heart disease: A defect in the heart causes a shortage of oxygen around the body.
- Heart valve problems
When heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, it’s called stenosis. When the heart valves don’t close properly and allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. When the valve leaflets prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called prolapse. Discover more about the roles your heart valves play in healthy circulation and make sure to learn more about heart valve disease.
- Myocardial infarction
This is also known as a heart attack, cardiac infarction, and coronary thrombosis. An interrupted blood flow damages or destroys part of the heart muscle. This is caused by a blood clot that develops in one of the coronary arteries and can occur if an artery suddenly narrows or spasms.
This is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. There are many types of arrhythmias. The heart can beat too slowly, too fast or irregularly. Bradycardiameans that the heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute. Tachycardia is when the heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute. An arrhythmia can affect how well the heart works. The heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
This is a genetic disorder in which the wall of the left ventricle thickens, making it harder for blood to be pumped out of the heart. This is the leading cause of sudden death in athletes. A parent with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has a 50 percent chance of passing the condition on to their children.
- Heart failure
This doesn’t mean that the heart stops beating. Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, means the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. The heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met. Heart failure can get worse if it’s not treated. If your loved one has heart failure, it’s very important to follow the doctor’s orders.
Some types of heart disease, such as those that are present from birth, cannot be prevented.Other types, however, can be prevented by taking the following measures:
- Eat a balanced diet. Stick to low-fat, high-fiber foods and make sure to consume five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day. Increase your intake of whole grains and reduce the amount of salt and sugar in the diet.
- Exercise regularly. This will significantly strengthen the heart and circulatory system, reduce cholesterol, and maintain blood pressure.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart and cardiovascular conditions.
- Reduce the intake of alcohol. Do not drink more than 14 units per week.
Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, so make sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding your heart health. If you’re concerned about developing heart disease, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. This is especially important if you have a family history of heart disease. If you think you may have heart disease, based on new signs or symptoms you’re having, make an appointment to see your doctor.