Learn About Cardiovascular Diseases
Understanding Your Heart Problem Can Be the First Step to Improving Your Health
Each heartbeat is controlled by electrical impulses traveling through the
heart. These electrical impulses normally occur in regular intervals.
When something goes wrong with the heart’s electrical system, the
heart does not beat regularly. The irregular beating results in a rhythm
disorder, or arrhythmia.
Cardiomyopathy is a progressive disease of the heart muscle. The heart
is abnormally enlarged, thickened and/or stiffened. As a result, the heart
muscle's ability to pump blood is weakened, often causing heart failure
and the backup of blood into the lungs or rest of the body.
Congestive Heart Failure
This occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood. The most common causes are:
- Damage from past heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Narrowed heart arteries
Because the heart is not working efficiently, outflowing arterial blood
slows, returning blood in the veins backs up causing congestion and fluid
build-up, most often in legs and ankles. People with congestive heart
failure become short of breath and tire easily.
Coronary Artery Disease
When a substance called plaque builds up inside arteries that feed blood
to the heart, it causes a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening
of the arteries. Accumulations of plaque narrow the arteries, reducing
blood flow. Besides starving the heart of oxygen-rich blood, coronary
artery disease can cause blood clots of form in arteries. This can result
in heart failure or heart attack.
Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of lipids in the bloodstream. This includes
many types of lipids, such as cholesterol, cholesterol esters (compounds),
phospholipids and triglycerides. People usually develop hyperlipidemia
for two reasons: lifestyle habits or treatable medical conditions.
Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. High blood pressure
increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Risk factors include:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Family history
Peripheral Arterial Disease
This disease can occur when the arteries that carry oxygen- and nutrient-rich
blood to the legs become narrowed or blocked by plaque. Besides the aging
process, these factors contribute to peripheral artery disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol or triglycerides
- Too much homocysteine (an amino acid)
- Weight - 30 percent are more above ideal weight
Also known as heart valve disease, this occurs when heart valves don't
work the way they should. According to the American Heart Association,
about 5 million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease each year.