Heart Health : Types, Causes & Symptoms
- April 14,2022
- 2 Min Read
The heart is a muscular organ vital for pumping blood throughout the body employing a coordinated contraction among its four chambers. Any hindrance in the normal functioning of the heart can lead to various heart diseases; hence, regular monitoring and opting for a healthy lifestyle is essential.
What are the types of heart diseases?
Depending on the which part of the heart, and consequently the function is affected, there are various types of heart diseases, such as:
- Arrhythmia (Dysrhythmia): An abnormal heart rhythm through the heart. Some arrhythmias are mild, but others are life-threatening.
- Atrial Fibrillation: An irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow. One of the most common arrhythmias.
- Atherosclerosis: Development of plaque inside the arteries. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows our arteries. Thereby, limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to our organs and other parts of our bodies.
- Cardiomyopathy: A heart muscle disease in which the heart is abnormally enlarged, thickened, or stiffened, weakening the heart's ability to pump blood.
- Congenital Heart Defects: The most common type of genetic disability which affects the baby's heart structure and functioning (blood flow through the heart and out to the rest of the body).
- Coronary Artery Disease(CAD): Over time, cholesterol plaques can constrict the arteries that feed blood to the heart. An abrupt blood clot is more likely to clog the narrowed arteries (this blockage is called a heart attack).
- Endocarditis: Inflammation of the inner lining or heart valves of the heart. Usually, endocarditis is due to a severe infection in the heart valves.
- Diastolic Dysfunction: The inflexibility of the heart muscles to contract to cause blood to back up in the organs.
- Systolic Dysfunction: The heart's inability to pump with enough force to push blood throughout our body.
- Mitral Valve Disease: The mitral valve between the two left heart chambers (left atrium and left ventricle) does not work properly. It may not be closing fully, which can cause blood to leak backward to the left atrium (regurgitation); the valve may bulge instead of closing tightly (prolapse); or the valve may be narrowed (stenosis) causing obstruction to blood flow. It can occur due to a heart defect present at birth (congenital), calcium deposition on the valve, inflammation of the heart tissues, or rheumatic fever- which is a complication of a bacterial (Streptococcus) infection that can affect the heart.
- Aortic Valve Disease: The blood flow from the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle) to the main artery to your body (aorta) doesn't work properly because of damage to the aortic valve. It can be result in an obstruction to blood flow (stenosis), or a backward leakage of blood (regurgitation), or both. It may be caused by a heart defect present at birth (congenital) or other conditions - including age-related changes to the heart, infections, high blood pressure or injury to the heart.
- Tricuspid Valve Disease: In this condition, the valve between the two right heart chambers (right ventricle and right atrium) doesn't work properly. It may not be closing fully, which can cause blood to leak backward to the right atrium (regurgitation) or the valve may be narrowed (stenosis) causing obstruction to blood flow. Any abnormality in the forward blood flow direction from the right atrium to the ventricle. It may be caused by a heart defect present at birth (congenital) or other conditions - including age-related changes to the heart, infections like rheumatic fever or infective endocarditis, high blood pressure or injury to the heart.
Understanding the symptoms of heart diseases
Although each type of issue requires specialized treatment, they may share some common warning signs.
Symptoms could include, but are not limited to:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting or near-fainting spells
- Rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest
- Shortness of breath and anxiety
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Pain or uneasiness in the arms, left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back
- Collapsing and a sudden cardiac arrest, in extreme cases
What are the causes and risk factors for heart diseases?
Heart diseases include numerous problems associated with blood vessels and the cardiovascular system. Many of these are caused by atherosclerosis, a condition wherein plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup causes narrowing of the arteries, making blood flow more difficult, allowing blood clots to form in the arteries, ultimately obstructing blood flow; thereby resulting in a heart attack or stroke can occur. One of the most common heart diseases observed is coronary heart disease, prevalent in the growing population of older adults.
Following are the various risk factors associated with coronary heart disease:
- High blood pressure: Managing one's high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most manageable risk factors for heart diseases. Too high a blood pressure can damage our blood vessels.
- Smoking: Smoking is a significant cause of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and causes approximately one of every four deaths from CVD. Tobacco's harmful substances can damage and narrow blood vessels.
- High Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a type of fat usually found in the bloodstream. High cholesterol can cause our blood vessels to narrow, increasing our chances of developing a blood clot.
- Diabetes: A chronic disease in which the blood sugar level rises too high. Blood vessels can be damaged by high blood sugar levels, making them more likely to narrow. Many individuals with type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese, linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Physical inactivity stands as a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and excessive cholesterol are all on the list. Regular physical activity lowers the chance of dying early from cardiovascular diseases (CVD). It also aids in preventing diabetes, the maintenance of weight loss, and the reduction of hypertension, all of which are distinct risk factors for CVD.
- Obesity: Obesity has shown to raise the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. Waist measurement can be a good indicator for assessing risk. In the case of men, a waist size of 94cm (about 37 inches) or more and in the case of women, a waist size of 80cm (about 31.5 inches) or more can be a contributing factor towards heart diseases.
Some other risk factors that affect the development of CVD include:
- Age: CVDs are most common in people over 50, and risk increases as one ages.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop CVDs at a younger age.
- Diet: Poor diet can lead to the development of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Alcohol: Excessive drinking can also increase our cholesterol and blood pressure levels and contributes to weight gain.
How does genetics and family history play a role in the risk of heart diseases?
According to a study, siblings of patients with CVDs had a 40% increased risk. In contrast, offspring of parents with premature CVDs have a 60% to 75% increased risk. Getting frequent health check-ups is an effective way to prevent CVDs.
At Suburban Diagnostics, we provide a wide array of diagnostic testing when it comes to heart diseases.
- 2D Echocardiogram, also known as 2D Echo assessment/test, Echo Cardiac Ultrasound, Doppler Ultrasound, or Cardiac Ultrasonography, uses sound vibrations to generate images of the heart non-invasively. It displays the different parts of the heart as images, making it simple to see any damage or blockages and the blood flow rate.
- ECG tests:
- Resting ECG - The resting ECG is an easy, fast, and painless procedure. The resting ECG can detect heart hypertrophy, ischemia, myocardial infarction, myocardial infarction sequelae, cardiac arrhythmias, and other heart disorders. The test takes about 5 minutes and minimum to no preparation.
- Ambulatory ECG - Recording the electrical activity of our heart while we do our usual activities.
- Stress Test, also known as Treadmill/ Exercise/ Cardiac Stress Test, is a cardiological procedure that assesses the heart's ability to respond to external stress in a clinical setting. The stress response is induced at times by exercise.
- Blood tests -
- Lipid Profile - Evaluates the amount of “good” and “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood.
- hs-CRP - A blood test that detects lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Used to assess the risk of heart disease and stroke in people who do not already have heart disease.
- Homocysteine – A cardiac risk marker - high levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for CAD.
- ApoA1/B - Assess your risk of developing heart disease; when monitoring the effectiveness of lipid treatment and/or lifestyle changes.
- Lipoprotein A - Determine any inherited predisposition for a high cholesterol level.
How to stay heart healthy?
- Monitor and control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
- Reduce weight if overweight.
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Manage stress, practice stress management exercises.
- Avoid too much sodium (salt) consumption in meals.