- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
An Explanation of What Is Heart Disease
What is Heart Disease?
Obviously it is a disease that affects the heart; the life giving source for every human being which if diseased will affect your day to day quality of life and if not treated could prove fatal.
There are three main forms of heart disease, coronary, congenital and cardiomyopathy. Here we shall discuss each type and what causes them to occur.
There is not one specific explanation that relates to heart disease. This is because there are various types of heart disease; but there is one thing they have in common and that is they prevent the essential pumping function of the heart to work to its optimum capacity.
Another common thread and sadly detrimental aspect of one particular type of heart disease, namely coronary heart disease is that it has increased over the 20th and 21st centuries and affects thousands of men and women each year, becoming the number one cause of death in the western world.
This increase in fatal heart disease is mainly due to the affluent lifestyles and unhealthy food choices we make, eating fatty foods, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and lack of exercise. But, that’s the price you pay for indulging in the vices of the developed world!
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
CHD Is possibly the commonest disease that affects the heart and is by far the leading cause of death in the USA and the UK.
Coronary heart disease occurs because the arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients to the tissues of the body become narrow and blocked by a build up of fatty deposits.
Over a period of time this fatty substance thickens and hardens along the artery walls, restricting the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, which can lead to chest pains (angina).
If the arteries become completely blocked it is likely to cause a heart attack and even death.
Congenital Heart Disease
This usually occurs at birth when a range of structural abnormalities develop in the heart as a baby grows in the womb. These abnormalities may obstruct the flow of blood in the heart or cause the flow to go through the heart in an abnormal manner, for example through a hole in the heart. Congenital defects can also affect the heart’s rhythm.
9 in 1000 people are born with congenital heart disease.
This is a disease that affects the heart muscle and is usually genetic with one or more members of a family being affected. However, it should be noted that even if some family members have the condition they all do not necessarily show signs of having the disease or be affected at all.
There are three types of cardiomyopathy:
This is where the muscular wall of the heart becomes thickened making the heart muscle stiff, which makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.
This disease is opposite to hypertropic cardiomyopathy because instead of the muscle wall thickening it is thin and floppy, making it difficult for the heart to efficiently pump blood around the body.
DCM may occur for a number of reasons, it may be because of a viral infection, uncontrolled high blood pressure, consuming too much alcohol or inherited.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
ARVC is an inherited condition passed on through families and in the main affects the right side of the heart, although both sides can be affected.
Because of the way the heart muscle cells in ARVC behave it can be difficult to diagnose. Basically what happens is that the heart muscle cells over a period of time are replaced by fatty tissue forming a ‘patchy’ pattern in the heart muscle, with normal cells in between.
These changes make the heart weaker and as a result does not effectively pump blood around the body. It also causes abnormal heart rhythms because the electrical impulses to the heart are slowed down as they pass through the muscle wall unevenly.
Except for inherited heart diseases simple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of getting coronary heart disease and living a longer and healthier life.