What Causes Heart Disease?
Heart disease and heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. While responsible for approximately 450,000 deaths each year, many of these deaths are preventable. Learning what causes heart disease and how you can make some simple lifestyle changes may decrease your chances of developing heart disease and the associated risk of heart attack.
Types of Heart Disease
There are several different types of heart disease. The causes and treatments will differ depending on the type of symptoms and the condition.
- Atherosclerosis – (ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis) results when plaque builds up in the coronary artery. This buildup can restrict the flow of blood to the hearth muscle, resulting in damage to the heart and, ultimately, to death. This condition doesn’t develop overnight; rather it progresses over months and years. Arterial dysfunction, which can be diagnosed using the EndoPAT®, is today considered by leading cardiologists an important marker of this condition.
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – Occurs when atherosclerosis worsens and coronary arteries narrow to the point where blood flow to the heart muscle is restricted.
- Arrhythmia – When the heart does not beat properly the condition is referred to as arrhythmia. Patients with arrhythmia may have a heart that is beating too quickly, too slowly, or the heartbeat may be irregular. Once the condition has been diagnosed, it can be treated with a defibrillator or a pacemaker in order to adjust the heart rate, returning it to a normal rhythm.
- Heart Valve Problems – The valves in the heart control the flow of blood. If they do not open properly they can restrict the amount of blood that the heart receives, resulting in damage. Additionally, if the valves do not close completely, they can leak and damage the heart. If the valves bulge or prolapse they may cause the blood to flow the wrong way. This condition can be treated surgically in order to repair or replace the valve.
- Heart Failure – Often referred to as congestive heart failure. When a person suffers from heart failure, the heart usually does not completely stop working; rather the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently. This decrease in blood flow can cause many serious problems and can lead to a fatal situation. The causes of heart failure may include viruses, other illnesses, and the general weakening of the heart. In many cases, heart failure is treatable. Over time, if the cause of the damage is resolved, the heart muscle can often be strengthened.
A diagnosis of any one of these types of heart disease does not mean that your life is over. However, ignoring the problems associated with the condition could increase the chances of becoming another heart disease statistics. The good news is that by becoming better informed about heart disease and its treatment, it is possible to live a long and rewarding life.
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