Heart disease or cardiovascular disease can be defined as a range of conditions that affect either the heart, the blood vessels or both. Any disease that affects the cardiovascular system such as cardiac disease, vascular disease of the brain and the kidney or peripheral arterial disease fall under cardiovascular diseases.
Heart conditions that affect the heart’s muscles, valves or rhythm are also included under the umbrella of heart diseases and may be caused by factors that can be prevented or treated with suitable lifestyle modifications.
Types, Causes and Symptoms of Heart Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases are categorized based on whether they affect the structure or the functioning of the heart.
Types of heart diseases can include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Hypertensive heart disease
- Heart failure
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Congenital heart disease
While cardiovascular diseases can refer to different problems of the heart and blood vessels, the underlying cause for them is a change in either the structure or functioning of the heart.
Common causes for abnormal heart conditions include:
- Congenital defects
- High blood pressure
- Excessive intake of alcohol or caffeine
- Rheumatic fever
The risk factors associated with heart diseases include pre-existing chronic conditions, age and the genetic makeup of the individual. While some of these are immutable, others can be modified by adopting a healthy lifestyle, taking the appropriate drugs and the prevention of Serrano’s Cardiac Triad: hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.
Here are some factors that may impact cardiovascular health:
The mortality rate linked to heart diseases in the U.S. is as high as 82 percent in people over 65; so age may be one of the most important factors in the development of heart diseases.
Men may be at a higher risk of heart disease, but it can be prevalent in women of post-menopausal age.
Several dietary patterns like those high in saturated fats and sodium have been linked to heart diseases and related conditions.
Lack of physical activity:
Heart disease can sometimes develop from lack of physical activity because little or no physical activity can impact other health factors like weight and metabolism. Hence, it is recommended to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, based on your health conditions.
The symptoms of this condition may not manifest for a long time and sometimes a heart attack or stroke may be the first warning of an underlying condition.
Some of the symptoms to look out for are:
- Chest pain
- Pain in the neck and torso
- Fluttering in the chest
- Pain, numbness, weakness in the limbs
- Racing heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Slow heartbeat
- Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet
Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Diseases
The diagnosis of a heart condition primarily involves a physical exam, a study of the individual’s medical history, family history and an array of appropriate tests.
One or more of the following tests may be involved:
An ECG detects and records the heart’s electrical activity and can give a reading of the heart’s rhythm, the strength and timing of the electrical signals.
This test uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart and can show areas with poor blood flow, the heart muscles that aren’t contracting normally, or any injury that the heart has encountered in the past.
This test uses dye and special X-rays to show the insides of the coronary arteries. A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel on the arm, upper thigh or neck and is threaded into the coronary arteries where the dye is released into the bloodstream. Special X-ray pictures are taken while the dye flows through the coronary arteries to show the flow of blood.
Cardiac Computed Tomography (CT) Scan:
Cardiac CT is an imaging test that uses CT technology with or without an intravenous contrast and provides a visualization of the heart’s anatomy, blood vessels and circulation.
A heart biopsy, also called myocardial biopsy, is an invasive procedure used to detect or confirm heart disease. It uses a bioptome, a medical advice with a small grasping device, to obtain a small piece of the heart tissue for testing.
Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
This technique uses large magnets and radio-frequency waves to obtain pictures of the body’s internal structures, without any exposure to X-rays. This technique creates images of the heart through its pumping cycle.
The treatment of heart diseases vary depending on the specific conditions and mainly aim at relieving the symptoms, reducing the risk and preventing the complications and may include:
Making lifestyle modifications like following a low-sodium diet, exercising regularly, quitting cigarettes and limiting alcohol intake can make a huge impact in managing and preventing heart diseases.
Medications targeted to relieve the symptoms, based on the type of the disease, might be prescribed.
Procedures and Surgery:
When lifestyle changes and medications fall short, doctors can recommend surgeries including:
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI):
The procedure, commonly known as angioplasty, is a nonsurgical intervention of the heart aimed to open blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. PCI can improve blood flow to the heart and relieve chest pain. A stent (a small mesh tube) is usually placed in the artery to help keep it open after the procedure.
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG):
CABG is a type of surgery where the surgeon removes arteries or veins from other areas in the body and uses them to bypass the narrowed or blocked coronary arteries. CABG can improve blood flow to the heart, relieve chest pain and even help prevent a heart attack.
Heart diseases can be prevented by making certain lifestyle changes like adapting healthy choices on a daily basis.
Certain alternative therapies like the following may also be beneficial:
- A holistic approach to a healthy heart comprises its physical and emotional side. Various herbs like oregano, hawthorn and green tea that are rich sources of anti-oxidants and flavonoids could protect the heart from free radicles and pathogens.
- Homeopathy may benefit cardiac neurosis, especially post-surgery. Homeopathic treatments such as baryta mur, crataegus and iberis may be useful for certain heart conditions.
- A healthy diet comprising foods like whole grains, nuts, legumes and dark chocolate will help to keep the heart healthy.
- Yoga could help reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
Heart diseases, when not under check, can lead to complications like heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest, aneurysms and more. With its various types and associated complications, people dread heart diseases, but it is important to remember that many of these can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.
The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.
Dantas, A. P., Jiménez-Altayó, F., & Vila, E. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3429093/
Highlander, P., & Shaw, G. P. (2010, February). Current pharmacotherapeutic concepts for the treatment of cardiovascular disease in diabetics. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19965897
Ornish, D., Brown, S. E., Scherwitz, L. W., Billings, J. H., Armstrong, W. T., Ports, T. A., . . . Gould, K. L. (1990, July 21). Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1973470/
Klatsky, A. L. (2009, May). Alcohol and cardiovascular diseases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19419257
Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Tucker, K. L. (2011, August 17). Coronary heart disease prevention: Nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21575619
Siri-Tarino, P. W., Sun, Q., Hu, F. B., & Krauss, R. M. (2010, March). Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20089734
Bunker, S. J., Colquhoun, D. M., Esler, M. D., Hickie, I. B., Hunt, D., Jelinek, V. M., . . . Tonkin, A. M. (2003, March 17). “Stress” and coronary heart disease: Psychosocial risk factors. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12633484
Walden, R. (1970, January 01). Cardiovascular Disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92767/
Longhurst, J. (2013, April). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3616410/
Y. (1970, January 01). A Historical Perspective of the Understanding of the Link between Diet and Coronary Heart Disease. Retrieved from http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC2790142
Manchanda, S. C., & Madan, K. (2014, September). Yoga and meditation in cardiovascular disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24464106