Heart diseases encompass a wide range of conditions that affect the heart. Under this category, various conditions affect the blood vessels and the heart as an organ. While referring to heart diseases on most occasions, the term cardiovascular diseases have been mostly used to refer to conditions of narrowed or blocked blood vessels that lead to heart problems. Conditions that affect the normal functioning of the heart have been wholesomely referred to as heart diseases.
Statistics and data
Heart diseases affect men and women alike, the disease has no gender preference. In the United States, the disease is claimed to responsible for over 630, 000 deaths yearly. The management and treatment of heart conditions have further placed a burden on the US economy at about 200 billion US dollars.
Causes of heart diseases
Several causes have been suggested to explain the underlying causes of heart problems. The causes have mainly revolved around damage caused to all or a part of the heart or damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart tissues hence reduced supply of nutrients and oxygen. However, it is important to note that some of the heart conditions are genetic and may even occur before a person is born. These include; hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In addition to this, there are other types of heart diseases such as the congenital heart defect that may affect unborn babies while in the womb.
Modern lifestyle has also played key roles in increasing the risks of acquiring heart diseases. These have included life choices such as;
- High blood pressure resulting from high cholesterol content in the body.
- Overweight and obesity
- History of the family concerning heart infections.
Some of the factors mentioned above such as age are usually unavoidable, for example when a woman hits the age of 55, there are higher chances of having a heart problem. However, other life choices have only been found to increase the risks of suffering from heart conditions.
Types of heart diseases and their causes
Congenital heart disease
The condition has been used to refer to the general heart deformities that occur since birth. These conditions include; the presence of a hole in the two chambers of the heart, there could be obstruction defects due to blockage of one or both of the two chambers, and cyanotic heart disease which results due to shortage of oxygen around the body. There have been arguments that the above conditions in unborn children could result from the lifestyle of the mothers during pregnancy for example smoking and taking of alcohol.
The condition simply refers to an irregular heartbeat. The heart can lose its regular beat in various ways by either beating too fast (tachycardia), beating too slow (bradycardia), premature and abnormal contractions of the ventricles and generally when the heartbeats are irregular at intervals. This condition has been found to occur due to lack of coordination between the electrical impulses and the heart tissues. This makes the heart not work properly.
Coronary artery disease
The coronary artery supplies the heart tissues with oxygenated blood and food nutrients through the blood it supplies to the heart. Deposits of excess cholesterol in the body have been found to cause damage to the coronary artery as the cholesterol clogs the vessel. The buildup and the continued deposition cause the heart to receive less amount of the oxygenated blood and the nutrient contents; a condition that may lead to serious problems.
This condition occurs when the heart ventricle chambers enlarge and are therefore unable to pump blood properly to the other parts of the body. It is caused by reduced oxygen content in the heart muscles due to coronary artery disease. The condition has been found to mostly affect the left ventricle.
Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart does not pump blood effectively around the body. It mainly occurs when either the left side or the right side is affected. Conditions affecting the coronary artery besides blood pressure could leave the heart muscles in a condition that it is unable to pump enough blood around the body.
Risk factors associated with heart diseases
Age: age advancement has been found to considerably increase the risk of heart diseases due to damaged blood vessels or thickened heart muscles.
Sex: men are generally at higher risks compared to their women counterparts whose risks have been found only to increase after menopause.
Smoking: the nicotine content in cigars has been found to narrow blood vessels and in addition to this, the smoke content; carbon monoxide causes considerable damage to the inner tissues of the blood vessels. This explains why heart conditions are more common among smokers than non-smokers.
Poor and unmonitored diets: consuming foods that are high in salts and cholesterol can as well contribute to the development of heart conditions.
Lack of physical activities: lack of regular and frequent physical activities has been associated with increased cholesterol content in the body which might lead to narrowing of blood vessels and subsequent heart attacks.
Medical practitioners have argued and advised that it is usually better to prevent the occurrence of heart conditions than treating. Some of the conditions put forward have included lifestyle choices that ensure the improved condition of the heart. These include; quit smoking, avoid high cholesterol diets, maintain regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily and maintain a healthy weight.
It is, however important to note that in circumstances where the conditions require medication and treatments, there are two options available; by either use of drugs or through the surgical option.
Medication through drugs
A range of medication and drugs are available for the cure of the various heart conditions. Some of these drugs serve to prevent clots in the blood while others are used to treat heart failure and lower cholesterol levels. Some of the drugs include;
- statins, for lowering cholesterol
- blood thinners, such as warfarin, for preventing blood clots
- beta-blockers, for treating heart attack, heart failure, and high blood pressure
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, for heart failure and high blood pressure
Heart surgery and operations are effective in treating blockages of the blood vessels and other heart problems which do not respond to medication. The most common surgeries aimed at rectifying heart conditions include;
- angioplasty, in which a balloon catheter is inserted to widen narrowed blood vessels that might be restricting blood flow to the heart
- coronary artery bypass surgery, which allows blood flow to reach a blocked part of the heart in people with blocked arteries
- surgery to repair or replace faulty heart valves
- pacemakers, or electronic machines that regulate a heartbeat for people with arrhythmia
Efficiency and barriers to treatment methods
The use of drug therapies is more affordable and accessible to many people, however, the only disadvantage the option has only occur in situations where the body systems react negatively to the drugs, for example, a drug like warfarin meant to prevent blood clots causes agglutination.` surgery option, on the other hand, is usually costly and expensive and can only be accessed by those who can do so.
Calorie restricted or controlled diets
Doctors have recommended low-calorie diets and foods for women and men in the proportions as follows 1500 and 1800 respectively. Lower calorie as advised by the physicians has also acted to ensure healthy lifestyles among obese and overweight individuals.
Regular physical activities have also been categorized as a wellness activity that is vital in the management of obese conditions. Maintaining an active life has been found to help burn the calories to help stay a healthy life. Physical activities also help in reducing the rates of occurrence of obesity-related conditions such as stroke, heart diseases and high blood pressure. (Warburton & Bredin, 2017)
Benjamin, E. J., Virani, S. S., Callaway, C. W., Chamberlain, A. M., Chang, A. R., Cheng, S., … & de Ferranti, S. D. (2018). Heart disease and stroke statistics-2018 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 137(12), e67.
Esposito, K., Maiorino, M. I., Bellastella, G., Panagiotakos, D. B., & Giugliano, D. (2017). Mediterranean diet for type 2 diabetes: cardiometabolic benefits. Endocrine, 56(1), 27-32.
Kiani, M. J. E. (2017). U.S. Patent No. 9,687,160. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of heart condition and coronary diseases in adults: the evidence report. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/guidelines/archive/clinical-guidelines-obesity-adults-evidence-report NIH external link. Published September 1998. Accessed July 25, 2017
Warburton, D. E., & Bredin, S. S. (2017). Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Current opinion in cardiology, 32(5), 541-556.
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