Our hearts are one of the most vital organs we have in our bodies, and without our heart beats we would cease to exist as humans. Sadly, heart disease and other diseases that affect the arteries, valves and blood pressure can occur. Heart attacks do not discriminate based on age, and anyone can experience a heart-related emergency. This makes taking care of our hearts extremely important and reducing the likelihood of a heart event from occurring by using preventative measures.
While learning to reduce the possibility of heart disease and how best to treat it, it’s also important 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 is a review of the most common types of heart disease and recognizing signs of a heart attack.
Cardiomyopathy- What is this?
Our heart muscles are in charge of pumping blood throughout our bodies. When these muscles become diseased or weaken, it’s referred to as cardiomyopathy. The diseased heart muscles can expand, which can lead to scar tissue forming on our hearts. The more this pattern continues, the more the muscles weaken which make it increasingly harder for the body to receive the blood required. If your heart is unable to keep its regular rhythm, an irregular heart beat may result (referred to as arrhythmias) or heart failure can happen.
How to avoid Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy may not always have visible symptoms, and 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, that we continue to make positive lifestyle choices that can improve heart health. Exercise and your diet contribute largely to this, along with regular check-ups with your doctor to ensure there are no irregularities 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 serious cases, heart implants to maintain the regular heartbeat pattern.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)- What is it?
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 (which is a type of 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 the plaque build-up. This type of heart disease is one of the more common disease 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 help maintain a healthy body weight- all of which can prevent CAD. Getting regular medical checkups that allow for doctors to listen to your heart is also of paramount importance. In the event there is a history of heart disease in your family, be sure to mention this to your doctor. In some cases a referral to a cardiologist is the best course of action for prevention.
Rheumatic Heart Disease- What is it?
A grouping of short term (acute) and long-term (chronic) heart disorders can occur as a result of rheumatic fever. This disease can cause damage to the valves of the heart, and commonly begin with symptoms of strep throat. Once fully developed, the fever can harm the joints, body and heart by means of severe inflammation. It can occur in anyone, but is most common in children between ages 5-15.
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.
How to prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease
Like other illnesses of this nature, if someone has a fever or fever-like symptoms, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is of the utmost importance. A doctor can assess the symptoms as 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.
Congenital Heart Disease- What is it?
Someone can be born with a heart-related ailment. This can be a problem with the valves, 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 ongoing health. If such damage to the heart continues, it can trigger a number of other issues (Valvular heart disease, etc). Fortunately, science and cardiac research have advanced so that often there is a solution for these kinds of 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 are able to check unborn infant’s 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 along 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 serious cases, heart transplants. All of these steps can ensure the person lives a healthy heart life.
Managing a heart disease is possible, and the more care that is 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, as well as know how to react. Having an AED in the office or home can prepare for these kinds of emergencies, and learning CPR can help you save a life!