Any condition affecting the normal functioning of a heart can be termed as a heart disease. Heart disease is considered to be the major cause of death all over the world, with Asia accounting for half of the cases. Following an unhealthy lifestyle is considered to be the major cause of heart diseases in Asia.
The peculiarity of heart disease is that it can affect anyone irrespective of age, gender and race. Fortunately, most heart diseases can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.
World Heart Day falls on 29 September this year. In conjunction with this day, we will be discussing a series of topics and conditions relating to the heart!
What are the different types of heart diseases?
Heart disease affects the heart and the blood vessels surrounding it. The below are a few of the common types of heart diseases.
Coronary artery disease
This is a condition that affects the arteries supplying blood to the heart. In coronary artery disease, the arteries get clogged with plaque, which eventually hardens and narrows the artery. When this happens, the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart is considerably reduced. As a result, the heart muscles weaken eventually resulting in heart failure and arrhythmias.
Sometimes, the plaque in the artery ruptures, thereby stopping the blood flow completely. This results in a heart attack.
Electrical impulses coordinate the rhythm of our heartbeat. When these electrical impulses do not coordinate properly, it results in an irregular heartbeat, a condition known as arrhythmia.
This irregular heartbeat can be caused by various factors like congenital heart defect, high blood pressure, diabetes, excessive substance use, and certain medications.
There are different types of arrhythmia:
- Tachycardia with a rapid heartbeat
- Bradycardia with a slow heartbeat
- Atrial fibrillation with an irregular heartbeat
In this condition, the heart muscles are stretched and become thinner. Because of this, the heart becomes weak and cannot pump blood properly, eventually resulting in heart failure.
The main causes of dilated cardiomyopathy are a history of heart attack and arrhythmia. Use of certain drugs can also cause this condition. Sometimes, genetics and uncontrolled blood pressure also play a part.
In the case of heart failure, the heart continues to work but is not as efficient as it should be. Heart failure occurs because of problems in pumping and relaxing. The main causes of heart failure are arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease.
There are two types of valve problems affecting the heart – mitral valve regurgitation and mitral valve prolapse.
In the case of mitral valve regurgitation, the valves do not close tightly. As a result, the blood flows back into the heart. As for mitral valve prolapse, the valve bulges to the left atrium, resulting in a heart murmur.
What are the symptoms of heart diseases?
The symptoms of heart disease depend on the type of condition a person has. Chest pain and shortness of breath are common for all types of heart disease.
Below are a few specific symptoms experienced for each type of heart disease in addition to chest pain and shortness of breath.
Coronary artery disease
- Feeling of gas and indigestion
- A squeezing feeling or pressure on the chest
- Racing or slow heartbeat depending on the condition
- Fluttering in the chest
- Dizziness and fainting
- Irregular heartbeat
- Swelling in the feet or ankles
Who is at risk of developing heart diseases?
An unhealthy lifestyle and its resulting health issues are the main reasons for developing heart diseases. This includes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Excess weight or obesity
- Smoking and drinking
- Physical inactivity
Besides these, certain uncontrollable factors like age, family history and gender can also increase your risk.
What are the treatments available for heart diseases?
The treatment for heart disease depends on the type of disease you have. It can be broadly classified into three categories.
This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise and reduced alcohol consumption. Try to maintain a low-sodium and low-fat diet with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. You should be physically active so that you can keep your weight under control.
The symptoms of certain heart diseases can be kept under control through medication. Your doctor will also prescribe medication to reduce the risk of complications.
A surgery or invasive procedure may be prescribed by the doctor to treat certain heart conditions. For example, if you have a block in your heart caused by buildup of plaque, the doctor will insert a stent in the artery to help in the free flow of blood.
Heart disease is irreversible. However, through proper medication, procedures and lifestyle changes, the condition can be made manageable. If none of the above methods are working, bypass surgery is the last available option.
If your risk factor for contracting heart disease is high, you should consult a doctor early. The doctor will have you undergo a few screening tests and advise you with the lifestyle changes to be made.