What are the four types of heart diseases?
For an organ as complex as the heart, many types of diseases can be observed. The most common ones are:
- Congenital heart diseases
- Irregular heart rate
- Coronary artery diseases
- Myocardial infarction
- Mitral valve prolapse
What are the signs and symptoms of heart disease?
Although heart failure is usually a result of existing heart disease, its onset can largely be identified by
- Severe angina (chest pain)
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Arrhythmic heartbeat
- Coughing pink mucus
The above, along with fainting/dizziness is observed.
How do I know if my chest pain is indicative of a heart attack?
Chest pain is one of the most dangerous symptoms of many diseases, among which heart attack is one.
This makes it difficult to correctly identify whether the pain in the chest is symptomatic of a heart attack.
If the pain is sharp and distinguishable from a location, it is usually not a heart attack.
On the other hand, pain indicative of heart attacks is diffused, dull and yield heavy discomfort.
Often, doctors get panic calls from patients experiencing pain that stings while taking a breath, or something similar to acidity.
These are associated with non-cardiac ailments ranging from physical injury of the ribs to acid reflux to pleurisy.
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What are the leading causes of heart disease?
With increased research being done in the field of cardiovascular diseases, plenty of reasons for the onset of heart diseases have been found.
Broadly, they can be classified into the following types:
- Arrhythmic heartbeats (slower or faster than usual)
- Congenital heart defects
- Weak heart muscles
- Heart infections (like Endocarditis)
- Damaged valves
Based on the ECG pattern, heart attacks can be classified as:
- STEMI – A blood vessel gets completely blocked and deprives a whole region of the heart of receiving oxygenated blood.
- NSTEMI – A partially blocked blood vessel causes a heart attack
- CAS (or silent attacks) - An artery gradually gets constricted, thus reducing the flow of blood to the heart. Because of gradual onset, this can often lead to another heart attack.
Does smoking cause heart diseases?
Beyond causing cancer, smoking has also been found to predispose the smoker to heart attacks.
Smoking along with taking birth control pills increases the threat.
Studies have shown that the active ingredient in cigarettes, nicotine, reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
This directly leads to an increase in blood pressure.
Damage to the inner lining of blood vessels and the heart is also observed.
These threats are imminent not just for active smokers, but also for passive neighbors.
How does poor dental health lead to heart disease?
At first glance, this might seem unbelievable. But research has shown that gum diseases increase the risk of heart disease.
Due to poor dental health, a bacterial infection may set in through the oral orifice, which leads to an attack on the heart vessels.
Simultaneously, clinicians have reported loss of teeth in correspondence with Coronary Artery Diseases (CADs).
Can your thyroid levels affect your heart?
The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) secreted by the pituitary gland and T4 produced by the thyroid gland are hormones which are involved in the regular functioning of many organs.
Imbalances in these hormone levels cause conditions that may lead to heart disease.
Unlike other causes, thyroid levels can be set back to normalcy with adequate medications.
In hypothyroidism, TSH levels are elevated, which causes the arteries to lose their elasticity.
This indicates an increase in blood pressure.
Another side effect of hypothyroidism is a metabolic imbalance, which gradually leads to deposition of cholesterols along the arteries, paving the way for coronary heart disease.
Hyperthyroidism is caused as a result of increased T4 levels.
This hormone stimulates the heart muscles and causes an elevation in heart rate.
Prolonged overstimulation causes palpitations and eventually weakens the muscles, including those of the heart.
Can you get better after getting diagnosed with heart failure?
In spite of maintaining a risk-free life, many find themselves at the unsolicited doorstep of heart failure.
They could inherit it from their family or be predisposed or at risk due to another disease.
But after being diagnosed, patients often seek out methods to get better to increase the quality of life.
Most clinicians suggest doing cardio exercises for half an hour every day, along with dietary changes.
Behavioral changes like quitting smoking and drinking are advisable.
In some cases, medications are prescribed.
What are the medications used to treat heart diseases?
Commonly prescribed medications are:
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners) and antiplatelet agents used against blood clots
- Angiotensin blockers and Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors used to keep blood pressure under control
- Alpha and beta blockers used against hypertensive individuals
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs to combat Coronary Artery Diseases
- Vasodilators to relax blood vessels
- Diuretics to keep the body fluid levels under check
Does meat consumption contribute to heart disease?
The influence of diet on the onset of heart diseases is a much-studied topic.
Recent findings claim that red meat significantly predisposes an individual to succumb to heart diseases.
Scientists have observed that a particular by-product of red meat digestion increases the deposition of cholesterol on the inner walls of blood vessels.
They have also noticed an association with platelets, thus accelerating blood-clot-related complications.
Apart from red meat, doctors often ask patients to avoid foods rich in sodium, processed meats, and beverages with added sugars.
Studies conducted in America have conclusive numbers that highlight the dangers caused by such foods on the cardiac system.
So, what can you eat?
The heart-healthy foods
A few alternatives in your kitchen could go a long way in keeping your hearts safe!
The staple food, rice, often becomes the culprit. Using barley instead of rice adds more fiber to the plate.
For those using whole wheat bread, Edamame (Japanese soybean) is a welcome change that packages almost four times the same fiber content.
Instead of drinking beverages out of the can, including healthy volumes of red wine in your diet helps the heart.
Replacing salty foods with fresh herbs is found to have impressive effects while adding some flavor to your plate.
Apart from these, snacking on walnuts and almonds is advisable.
Magnesium for heart health
Magnesium has been found to restore blood pressure levels by acting on the ion channels lining blood vessels.
Is heart disease curable?
With increasing advances in scientific research, the onus on finding a cure for heart diseases is greater than ever.
However, the fact that it is not curable has not been challenged.
This is because the exact progression of a ‘heart being attacked’ causes irreversible damage to the heart muscles.
As you are reading this article, science is finding ways to revert this but has solutions to delay the onset of heart diseases by a much bigger margin than what was possible a few years ago.
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Can heart diseases be prevented?
Lifestyle and wellness experts stress on how heart diseases can be prevented.
This can be understood as a progressive recommendation.
For youngsters, they suggest charting out heart-healthy diets and starting an exercise routine.
Smoking and drinking are to be avoided.
For elders with a stressful work environment, the biggest task is to control stress and increase their quality of life.
With age, metabolism will slow down, which necessitates regulating diets.
Apart from this, general awareness about the onset of heart diseases and heart attacks would add to the conscious living of individuals.
Do blood tests detect heart problems?
Testing your blood is a great way to understand what’s going on inside your blood vessels.
The most conclusive would be a cholesterol test, which gives you a lipid profile that outlines which types of cholesterols are floating in your blood.
This helps to understand how they might deposit on the blood vessels. CRP tests are equally helpful in estimating the extent of inflammation, which is a marker of cholesterol deposition.
These two tests in combination are informative about atherosclerosis.
Apart from these, lipoproteins, ceramides in plasma and peptide levels add value to understanding the extent of risk to heart disease.
What are habits that can make your heart stronger?
Exercising for 30 minutes a day is found to be effective in making a heart healthier.
The most appropriate type of exercise for the heart is a cardio routine.
Lifting weights add strength to the muscles and increase the overall fitness of an individual.
Staying hydrated helps in thinning of the blood.
Additionally, vitamin E and aspirin supplements are found to prevent atherosclerosis.
Replacing coffee with tea and avoiding cigarettes are seen to have profound effects.
What is a congenital heart defect?
A person born with a heart with weak/faulty valves, walls or blood vessels, is said to have a congenital heart defect.
Often these go unnoticed in infants.
However, they resurface during adulthood, causing irreversible damage.
Treatment options are similar to conventional heart disease methods.
What is the link between congenital heart defect and Down Syndrome?
There are studies underway to find the reasoning behind individuals with Down syndrome falling prey to heart diseases at a shockingly young age.
Because Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality, it is suspected that the affected gene also results in congenital heart defects.
What is a widowmaker heart attack?
The front wall of the heart receives oxygenated blood from an important blood vessel called the Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery.
When this artery gets blocked, a significant part of the heart is deprived of much-needed blood.
This causes the rapid onset of a heart attack.
Among other instances, this is known to be highly critical as it can change from a meager block to full blockage within a very short span of time.
Inheritance of heart diseases
The most common reason for the high mortality rate around heart attacks is that it can be passed on through a set of faulty genes to many generations. Among these, the following are inheritable:
- Short and Long QT syndrome – Irregular recovery times of action potential
- Tachycardia - Caused by disrupted Calcium ion channels
- Atrial fibrillation – Disrupted heart rate leading to the incidence of stroke
- Brugada syndrome – Disturbed flow of blood to the ventricles
Genetic tests for heart diseases
Since it is a predominantly inheritable disease, patients at risk of heart diseases should definitely sign up for a genetic test with their immediate family members.
Genetic tests can resolve doubts about a person’s suspected inheritance of disease.
By mapping the family tree, the incidence of heart diseases can be tracked.
A genetic counselor can also help an individual understand how predisposed they are to a particular condition, based on the above.
Who should seek genetic testing for heart diseases?
Ideally, genetic testing can be done for any person interested to understand the occurrence of the disease and their risk.
Additionally, it can prove helpful for patients who are diagnosed with a disease of the heart, to better understand how they inherited it.
A thoughtful thing to do would be to include his/her immediate family members in the test to make diagnosis better.
Family members who have lost a blood relative can ideally walk in to get a test done for clarity of inheritance.
22q deletion syndrome and heart disease
Chromosome deletions have been studied to have multiple effects and one such is the 22q deletion syndrome.
Previously, it was found to cause facial abnormalities, autoimmune disorders, and mental illnesses like schizophrenia and BPD.
In recent times, cardiac diseases have also been observed. Additionally, they complicate surgical procedures, which makes treatment highly risky.