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The Different Types of Heart Disease

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The Different Types of Heart Disease

February is heart month, and it is also the month of love – so why not show your heart some love? Our hearts are one of the most important organs in our bodies, and without it’s constant lub-dubbing, we would fall to the ground. Unfortunately, heart disease does occur. Heart disease is not just one problem, instead, it is a number of different diseases that can affect the heart, valves, arteries, and blood pressure.

Anyone can experience heart problems or emergencies, and they can be any age. This makes it all the more important to take care of our hearts and use preventative measures to reduce our likelihood of heart disease. As we learn how to reduce the possibility of heart disease and learn how to treat it, it is also beneficial to understand the different types. Here are the different types of heart disease that afflict our population, and how to take action to prevent and treat them!

Heart Disease - the heartCoronary Artery Disease

What is it?

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), is a disease that affects the blood vessels and arteries (specifically your coronary arteries) that causes them to become damaged. Because the vessels and arteries are damaged, the heart does not receive the blood and oxygen it needs. This continued blockage can eventually lead to a heart attack or angina (a type of chest pain that results from a lack of oxygen being received to the heart) due to the plaque build-up. This type of heart disease is one of the more common, and can be very dangerous and even fatal to those who experience it. 

How to Prevent/Treat it?

The simplest way to prevent Coronary Heart Disease is to improve your lifestyle and make healthy life changes. Exercise each day, quit smoking, eat healthy and well-balanced meals, and maintain a healthy weight. As well, it is important to go for regular check-ups to the doctor, where they listen to your heart for any problems. If there is history of heart disease in your family, speak to your doctor about this as well. You may benefit from meeting with a cardiologist to ensure your heart health is in tip-top shape!

 

Cardiomyopathy

What is it?

The muscles of our heart are responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. When these muscles weaken or become diseased, it is called cardiomyopathy. The diseased heart muscles expand, which then can lead to scar tissue being formed on the heart. When this pattern continues to occur, the muscles weaken, making it harder for the body to receive the blood it needs. If the heart is unable to keep up the regular rhythm, irregular heartbeats may result (called arrhythmias) or heart failure can occur.

How to Prevent/Treat it?

Sometimes cardiomyopathy may not have visible symptoms, and in some cases the heart may even heal and not become an issue. This is why it is important that, even if we feel healthy, we make positive lifestyle choices to continue to improve our heart health. Diet and exercise are large contributors to this, as well regular check-ups to ensure that everything is working properly. If cardiomyopathy is identified in an individual, lifestyle changes are a common solution in addition to surgeries, medications, or even heart implants to maintain a regular heartbeat.

 

Rheumatic Heart Disease

What is it?

As described by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, “Rheumatic heart disease describes a group of short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) heart disorders that can occur as a result of rheumatic fever.” This disease can result in damage to the valves, and usually begins with the symptoms of strep throat. Once developed, the fever can harm the body, the joints, and the heart through severe inflammation. This disease can happen to anyone, but is most commonly found in children between 5 and 15 years of age. 

How to Prevent/Treat it?

Similar to other illnesses, if someone has fever-like symptoms it is important to go and see a doctor right away. They will be able to assess the symptoms as rheumatic heart disease and take measures to prevent or protect against it. Antibiotics are often prescribed, and an individual will typically only develop rheumatic fever after a few years. If a child does have heart damage due to rheumatic fever, then other medications are recommended to be taken daily, until the child becomes an adult.

Heart Disease - take care of your heart

Congenital Heart Disease and Defects

What is it?

Congenital heart disease or defects mean that someone is born with heart-related ailments. Whether this is a problem with the valves, the aorta, or the heart atrium, being born with heart disease or a defect can seriously affect a person’s health. If the damage to the heart continues, it can result in a number of other issues (ex. Valvular Heart Disease). Thankfully, science and research have advanced so far that these heart defects are often overcome and solutions are found.

How to Prevent/Treat it?

Because these are biological problems that people are born with, there is no way to prevent it. That being said, doctors are able to check an unborn baby’s heart and determine if the heartbeat is healthy. Those babies with warning signs of a heart defect or disease are given extra attention, and a cardiologist will be there to support and offer help along the way. If a child is born with a heart disease or defect, there are solutions to ensure good heart health. Some of these solutions include heart implants, surgeries, heart transplants, monitors, etc. All of these new and effective solutions can ensure that a person lives a long and healthy life with a defect/disease or not.

 

Causes of Heart Disease

In addition to the different types of heart disease, there are a number of heart conditions that can affect the heart. Some of these being:

  • Angina – chest pain in an individual that is the result of not enough oxygen in the heart.
  • Arrhythmia – an unstable heart beat that beats either too slow, too fast, or erratically. This can lead to a heart-related emergency.
  • Atherosclerosis – the buildup of plaque on the artery walls that can lead to heart disease.
  • Atrial Fibrillation – a type of arrhythmia that is an irregular heartbeat.
  • Cardiac Arrest – when the heart suddenly does not beat normally and requires a defibrillator to correct and save.
  • Heart Attack – when the heart does not get enough oxygen and the artery begins to die.
  • High Cholesterol – too much of bad cholesterol (LDL) build up in the arteries can result in heart disease.
  • High Blood Pressure – puts stress on your blood vessels and can lead to serious heart problems.

 

Heart disease is manageable, and the better choices we make in our daily routine (ex. choosing a meal filled with vegetables over a greasy burger), the better care we can give our hearts! When we bring more public awareness to the heart and heart disease, people can look for the signs and symptoms, as well as take immediate action. It is this reason that having an AED in the home or at the workplace can prepare for emergencies that are a result of heart disease.

Want to do more to help the heart? If you have the skills to assist someone who experiences a heart attack or cardiac arrest, then you are able to save a life! If you don’t know CPR or how to use an AED, no problem! Sign up for our First Aid Courses and learn life-saving skills today!

 

 

Sources:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/Common-Types-of-Heart-Defects_UCM_307017_Article.jsp#.WnOoEpM-fuQ

http://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/conditions/rheumatic-heart-disease

https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/conditions/rheumatic_heart_disease/

http://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/conditions/coronary-artery-disease

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/Cardiomyopathy/What-Is-Cardiomyopathy-in-Adults_UCM_444168_Article.jsp#.WnTB-JM-fuQ

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/conditions_treatments/conditions/valvular_heart_disease.html

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