Our hearts are one of the most vital organs in our bodies; without our heartbeats, we would cease to exist as humans. Unfortunately, heart disease and other diseases can affect the arteries, valves, and blood pressure. In addition, heart attacks do not discriminate based on age; anyone can experience a heart-related emergency. This makes taking care of our hearts extremely important and reduces the likelihood of a heart event occurring by using preventative measures.
What Causes Heart Diseases?
A major cause of heart disease is the buildup of fatty deposits in the walls of arteries. This can be caused by different risk factors such as unhealthy diet, lifestyle, and health conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Sleep apnea
The Different Types of Heart Diseases
While learning to reduce the risk factors for heart disease and how best to treat it, it's also essential to understand the different types of heart disease that affect our community's population and how best to take action to prevent and treat these, should it affect you or your loved ones in future.
Here are the most common types of heart disease and how to prevent them:
Our heart muscles are in charge of pumping blood throughout our bodies. When these muscles become diseased or weakened, it's called Cardiomyopathy. The diseased heart muscles can expand, leading to scar tissue forming in our hearts. The more this pattern continues, the more the muscles weaken, which makes it increasingly harder for the body to receive the blood required. If your heart cannot keep its regular rhythm, an irregular heartbeat may result (referred to as arrhythmias), or heart failure can happen.
How to prevent Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy may not always have visible symptoms; in some unusual cases, the heart may even heal, and it never presents as an issue. This illustrates the importance of why, even if we're feeling healthy and fit, we continue to make positive lifestyle choices that can improve heart health.
Exercise and your diet contribute largely to this, along with regular checkups with your doctor to ensure no irregularities are noted. In the event cardiomyopathy is identified in an individual, often lifestyle or diet changes are advised as well as medications, surgeries or in more severe cases, heart implants to maintain the regular heartbeat pattern.
Congestive Heart Failure
Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood effectively around the body. Congestive heart failure is a type of heart failure that can occur from problems with the heart's pumping or relaxing function.
Heart failure can result from untreated coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and other conditions. These conditions can affect the heart's ability to pump or relax properly. Seeking early treatment for heart-related conditions can help prevent complications.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a blood vessel and artery-affected disease (particularly your coronary arteries) which causes them to become damaged over time. As these arteries and vessels have been damaged, the heart doesn't receive the oxygen and blood it requires to function normally. This ongoing blockage can eventually lead to a heart attack or angina (acute chest pain resulting from a lack of oxygen to the heart). This is due to the buildup of plaque. This is a more common type of heart due to plaque buildup. This type of heart disease is one of the more common diseases of the heart and can be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, fatal to those who unfortunately experience it. Scary stuff, indeed!
How to prevent Coronary Artery Disease
- The easiest way to prevent CAD is to make improvements towards a healthy lifestyle and changes to diet.
- Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating well-balanced, healthy meals, in turn, helps maintain healthy body weight- all of which can prevent CAD.
- Regular medical checkups that allow doctors to listen to your heart are also paramount.
- If there is a history of heart disease in your family, mention this to your doctor.
- In some cases, a referral to a cardiologist is the best course of action for prevention.
Rheumatic Heart Disease
A grouping of short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) heart disorders can occur due to rheumatic fever. This disease can cause damage to the heart valves and commonly begin with symptoms of strep throat and shortness of breath. Once fully developed, the fever can harm the joints, body, and heart through severe inflammation. It can occur in anyone but is most common in children ages 5-15.
Similar to other illnesses, if someone has fever-like symptoms, it is essential to see a doctor immediately. They will be able to assess the symptoms of rheumatic heart disease and take measures to prevent or protect against it. Antibiotics are often prescribed, and an individual will typically only develop a rheumatic fever after a few years. If a child has heart damage due to rheumatic fever, other medications are recommended to be taken daily until the child becomes an adult.
How to prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease
Like other illnesses, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is of the utmost importance if someone has a fever or fever-like symptoms. A doctor can assess the symptoms of rheumatic heart disease and help take measures to protect against it or prevent it altogether.
Antibiotics have proven effective and are often prescribed in this situation. If a child does have resulting heart damage from rheumatic fever, other daily medications are prescribed until the child has reached adulthood.
An irregular heartbeat or abnormal heart rhythm, known as arrhythmia, occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate the heartbeat do not work correctly. This can cause the heart to beat too quickly, slowly, or erratically. There are various types of arrhythmias, including Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), Bradycardia (slow heartbeat), Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), and Premature contractions.
Various factors, including heart disease, electrolyte imbalances, and other medical conditions, can cause arrhythmias. It can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Treatment for arrhythmias typically involves lifestyle changes, medications, and, in some cases, surgery.
Congenital Heart Disease
Someone can be born with a heart-related ailment. This can be a problem with the heart valves, which keep the flow of blood and the aorta, or the atrium of the heart- known as Congenital Heart Disease. Being born with this kind of heart disease can seriously affect a person's health. In addition, if such damage to the heart continues, it can trigger many other issues (Valvular heart disease, etc.). Fortunately, science and cardiac research have advanced so that often there is a solution for these heart defects, allowing a person to eventually overcome this.
How to Treat or Prevent Congenital Heart Disease
This kind of heart disease is biological and, therefore, unpreventable. However, doctors can check unborn infants' hearts and determine if they are healthy. Those babies with early warning signs of heart defects or disease are singled out and given special attention and likely have a cardiologist on hand to offer support and assistance during the pregnancy. If a child is born with a known heart disease/defect, there are definite solutions to ensure good heart health. These can include surgeries, monitors, implants, and in severe cases, heart transplants. All of these steps can ensure the person lives a healthy heart life.
Heart Disease Prevention Tips
Some heart diseases are preventable. If you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, there are ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Consider these heart-healthy steps:
- Avoid Tobacco products
- Have regular exercise or physical activity
- Controlling your blood pressure
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that is lower in fat
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight based on your body mass index
- Manage your diabetes.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Reduce stress.
- Visit your doctor regularly and follow their advice.
Managing a heart disease is possible, and the more care placed on our daily healthy routines (choosing vegetables over a greasy hotdog, etc.), the better care we can provide to our hearts! Bringing more public awareness to this vital organ and heart disease can help people watch for the symptoms and signs and know how to react. Having an AED in the office or home can prepare you for these emergencies, and learning CPR helps you save a life!