As one of the leading causes of death in America, heart disease is a serious health issue. The term is used to describe a host of different illnesses that are classified under different names. Other heart problems include arrhythmias, coronary heart disease, heart defects and heart infections. The terms heart disease and cardiovascular disease are often used to mean the same thing. Typically, cardiovascular disease involves any condition that causes the blood vessels to become narrowed or blocked.
What Is Heart Disease?
In the normal human body, the heart pumps blood throughout the circulatory system.
As long as the cardiovascular system is functioning correctly, the tissue is able to receive the nutrients it needs and get rid of waste. Due to inactivity, diet or genetics, some individuals may develop heart disease.
Cholesterol starts to build up on the walls of the arteries. If individuals exercise regularly, the cholesterol plaque will be knocked off of the wall and be removed from the body. When individuals are not particularly active, it allows the plaque to increase*.
This makes the heart have to pump more in order to push blood throughout the body. Over time, symptoms like hypertension or varicose veins may develop as the circulatory system becomes damaged.
Individuals may become short of breath, develop fluid in their lung, suffer from water retention or have a heart attack. Heart disease can cause numerous symptoms and other medical conditions.
What are The Different Types of Heart Disease?
One common type of heart disease is an abnormal heartbeat. It may be caused by a genetic condition or other medical issue. When a heart arrhythmia develops, the heart may start too beat too fast or slow. It may also skip beats occasionally. Individuals may notice that they have chest pain, difficulties breathing or fluttering in their chest. A heart arrhythmia may also cause dizziness, fainting or lightheadedness.
Another heart disease problem is caused by heart defects. Often present at birth, these heart defects may cause water retention or swelling throughout the body. Heart defects can cause the skin to take on a blue hue due to oxygen deprivation. In infants, the shortness of breath caused by the defect can cause problems during feeding that lead to low weight gain. If the defect is not immediately diagnosed, parents may realize it later on when their children have difficulties breathing during exercise. The individual may become easily tired during physical activity and may have swollen hands and feet. In addition, fluid accumulation may develop in the heart or lungs.
In cardiomyopathy, the heart may thicken and become stiff. Although there are no symptoms early on, they may worsen as the disease progresses. Individuals may become bloated or develop swelling in their extremities. They may suffer from fatigue or breathlessness. Cardiomyopathy can also cause dizziness, irregular heartbeats, fainting spells or lightheadedness.
Heart infections can cause many of the symptoms of heart disease. There are essentially three types. Pericarditis causes problems with the tissue that is located around the heart. Endocarditis causes problems with the valves and inner membrane. With myocarditis, individuals can develop infections around the muscular middle layer of the heart. Symptoms of a heart infection include weakness, fever, breathlessness or fatigue. They may also have a dry cough or develop a skin rash.
Valvular heart disease can cause problems with one of the four valves within the heart. If they become damaged, these valves may become narrowed, start to leak or close poorly. This condition can cause swollen feet, a heart murmur or chest pain.
What are The Symptoms of Heart Disease?
The symptoms of heart disease can vary between different people. Once the blood vessels become narrowed or blocked, it can cause symptoms throughout the body. Individuals may develop chest pain or shortness of breath. Since the blood circulation has slowed, they may feel pain, numbness or coldness within their extremities.
In some people, the feet or legs may also become swollen due to water retention. As heart disease progresses, it can cause a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.
What are The Causes of Heart Disease?
Cardiovascular disease can be due to many different problems. It can be caused by the buildup of cholesterol in the body. When additional pressure is placed on the arteries, it can cause the walls to thicken and the blood will become restricted.
This may be due to an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise. Other risk factors include smoking or being overweight. In addition, some cases can be caused by weakened heart muscles, valves or tissue.
How is Water Retention Linked to Heart Disease?
When the heart is not working correctly, it inhibits the body’s ability to transport blood through the veins. Normally, the blood is responsible for removing* waste and fluid. If the veins cannot transport blood, fluid and toxins remain in the tissue. Before long, this causes the tissue to expand due to fluid retention.
How is Heart Disease Diagnosed?
If someone has chest pain or shortness of breath, they should visit their doctor. Heart disease cases are treated better when they have been detected early.
When they visit the doctor, they may be given blood tests to look for cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Doctors may also use a chest X-ray or electrocardiogram. Other diagnosis options include Holter monitoring, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, cardiac catheterization, heart biopsy and echocardiogram.
What are The Treatment Options Available for Heart Disease?
In the early stages of heart disease, a doctor may prescribe weight loss*, an exercise program or a dietary adjustment. Heart disease patients may be advised to eat a diet low in fat and sodium. Blood thinning medications may be taken to help make it easier for the heart to pump blood.
In cases of hypertension, medication may be prescribed to lower the blood pressure. In severe cases, the doctor may have to perform a coronary angioplasty to open the arteries up so that blood can pump through.
The easiest way to treat* heart disease is by diagnosing it early. Anyone who experiences dizziness, chest pain or water retention should see their doctor for medical care.