Heart Disease: What You Need to Know

There are many kinds of heart disease. Some common ones are:Coronary Artery DiseaseA narrowing of the coronary arteries due to a build up of plaque on the artery wall.Valvular DiseaseThe heart has four values that control the flow of blood through the heart. These valves have two or three leaflets that open and close as blood passes through. Valves can become thick and hard leading to narrowing (stenosis) or weakened leading to leaking (regurgitation). This decreases the efficiency of the heart by making it work harder to circulate the blood.Congestive Heart FailureWhen the heart if forced to work harder (hypertension, malfunctioning valves, weakened heart muscle from heart attack) the heart enlarges to compensate. Eventually this leads to a stretched muscle that loses its ability to contract. Like old elastic, it does not work well.AnginaWhen the heart muscle does not receive adequate oxygen and nutrients, the muscle begins to ache. Nitroglycerine opens the coronary arteries to allow greater blood flow to the heart muscle.Shortness of breath, chest pain, arm or neck pain and reduced ability to exercise are possible signs of cardiac problems. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should call their family physician right away.Common Arrhytmias (Irregular Hearbeats)BradycardiaA slow heartrate of 50 beats per minute or slower. If your heart rate is too slow, you may feel tired, lighted-headed or short of breath.Tachycardia (Also known as Tach)A fast heart rate from 160 - 200 beats per minute or more. Atrial tach arises in the atria and occurs usually in normal hearts. Ventricular tach occurs in hearts where disease or damage is present.Atrial FibrillationIrregular contraction of the atrium, which results in poor filling of the ventricles.Ectopic BeatsPremature atrial contractions (PACS) are common and no cause for alarm in healthy hearts. Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are not dangerous in healthy hearts but may indicate more serious problems in diseased hearts.Heart BlockWhen the electrical pathway in the heart is interrupted (heart attack, cardiomyopathy, cardiac nerve degeneration and others) the electrical impulses slow. Patients may experience fainting episodes or light-headedness. A permanently implanted pacemaker is used to correct this condition.Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)Hypertension usually has no symptoms. It may be caused by genetic factors, smoking, being overweight, sedentary lifestyle, eating a diet high in fat and elevated cholesterol levels. You should see your doctor if your blood pressure is greater than 140 over 90.