Cardiovascular diseases can be classified depending on the area they affect:
Heart Attack: Blockage of blood flow to the heart due to fatty deposits
Stroke: Blood vessel bleeding or decreased blood flow to the brain
Coronary Heart Disease: Disease affecting a blood vessel supplying blood to the
heart muscle (Coronary arteries)
Cerebrovascular Disease: Disease affecting blood vessels supplying blood
to the brain
Congenital Heart Disease:
Structural malformations of the heart by birth that adversely impact the normal functioning
and development of the heart
Rheumatic Heart Disease:
Damage of heart valves due to Rheumatic
fever caused by Streptococcal infection
Peripheral Arterial Disease:
Disease affecting a blood vessel supplying blood to arms and legs (limbs)
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Blood clot formation in deep veins usually
in the legs
Pulmonary Embolism: Blockage of blood flow to the lungs, mostly due
to blood clots formed when affected with DVT that move into circulation.
Often exercise and proper diet are promoted to prevent cardiovascular
diseases. However, the structural cardiac disorders present at birth (congenital) or
developed later in life due to aging or underlying diseases (functional) can cause
wear and tear of heart tissue and lead to heart disorders. Hence, it is important to
identify the symptoms and seek medical attention when required.-
Structural heart defects are easily detected during infancy by fetal echocardiography,
an imaging technique that uses sound waves to create a picture of the infant's heart.
Hence, most structural defects can be treated after the child is born. However, detection
of structural defects becomes tough in adulthood. Most symptoms are not noticeable
until the disease progresses. Heart failure symptoms differ slightly due to fluid buildup
or lack of oxygen in heart tissues.
Signs of Cardiovascular Diseases
- Irregular Heartbeats
- High blood pressure
- Fatigue and Shortness of Breath
- Intense Chest Pain
- Swelling of Feet, Abdomen, or Ankles
- Dysfunction of Kidney
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or Mini-strokes
Signs of Heart Failure
- Weight gain
- Loss of memory and cognitive ability
In case of infection caused by Streptococcus bacteria, rheumatic fever, stomach cramps,
and swelling of joints can be observed in patients. The signs and symptoms indicate that
a simple heart issue can quickly turn into a heart disorder; hence, it is important to understand
the basic mechanism to prevent it.
How Heart Issue Turns into Heart Disorder?
The heart has four valves that must open and close properly for the heart to pump
blood to all body parts efficiently. However, when there are structural heart defects,
blood flow harmony is disturbed. Just like a door that regulates the entry and
exit of visitors to the house, the valves open and close to regulate smooth entry
and exit of blood into and out of the heart. Ifa valve is regurgitant, means it doesn't
close properly then the blood starts flowing in the wrong direction. These defects
can be detected during pregnancy and rectified upon birth. But adults develop these
as a side-effect of other diseases like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or bacterial
infections. These defects might be due to a previous heart attack or aging.
Types of Structural Heart Defects
Aortic Valve Stenosis: Narrowing of the valve in aorta, the main artery carrying
blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Stenosis is the thickening/ stiffening
of the valve leaflets preventing blood flow
Mitral Valve Regurgitation:
Back-flow of blood due to improper closing of the mitral
Atrial Septal Defect and Patent Foramen Ovale:
Types of holes found in the upper chambers of the heart that affect
Ventricular Septal Defect: A hole in the wall separating two lower
chambers, called ventricles of the heart that causes improper blood flow and in turn
pressurizes the heart and lungs.
Heart Valve Disease: Damaged valves in the heart that lead to problems
in blood flow.
Cardiomyopathy: Change in heart muscle, usually stiffening or enlarging.
Left Ventricular Hypertrophy: Left ventricular muscle wall thickening.
Myocarditis: Inflammation of heart muscle.
Marfan Syndrome:An inherited disease leading to abnormal connective
tissue development. Faulty connective tissue results in weakening of the aorta and causes
wear and tear of the heart muscle.
Rheumatic Heart Disease: Damage of heart valves by rheumatic fever
(an inflammatory disease), most commonly found in children.
Pericarditis: Often caused by an infection (viral, bacterial, or fungal),
leading to inflammation of the pericardium (covering layer of the heart).
Coronary Artery Disease
Vs. Cardiomyopathy What's the Difference?
According to WHO, cardiovascular illnesses claim the lives of 45 percent of
Indians, aged between 40 to 69.
There are many types of cardiovascular diseases, each having their own symptoms,
causes, and treatments. While some heart diseases can be treated with lifestyle
changes and medication, others might need surgery to restore the heart's function.
Two of the most common heart diseases are Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and
Cardiomyopathy. Although both are life-threatening heart diseases, they affect
the heart differently.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary Artery Disease occurs when the coronary arteries responsible for supplying
oxygen rich blood to the heart aren't able to function normally due to the buildup
of a waxy substance called plaque within their walls. This buildup narrows and
hardens the arteries, eventually impeding the blood flow to the heart.
Causes of Coronary Artery Disease
An injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery can lead to Coronary Artery Disease. The following factors
can cause damage to the coronary artery":
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- diabetes or insulin resistance
When the inner wall of an artery gets damaged, fatty substances made of cholesterol
and cellular waste deposit at the site of injury. This process is called atherosclerosis.
If the plaque surface ruptures, the blood cells called platelets rush to the site to repair
the artery. This forms a clump that can block the artery, causing a heart attack.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
At first, there might not be any symptoms. However, as the plaque continues
to build up within the coronary arteries, the following symptoms may develop.-
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Neck pain
- Shortness of breath during physical activity
If the symptoms keep getting worse, Coronary Artery Disease may cause life-threatening
complications such as:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
Understanding Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:
- Family history
- Age and sex of the person
- High blood cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Overweight or obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- High stress
What is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a condition that affects the heart muscle called the myocardium.
As a result, the heart becomes stiff, enlarged, or thickened, causing scarring of tissue
thereby, not allowing the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Over time,
the heart weakens and cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure.
The most common types of cardiomyopathy, include:
The blood-pumping chambers of the heart enlarge or dilate.
The heart muscle stiffens and scars or both.
The heart muscle thickens.
Mostly, the cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown. It may be a result of another
condition or it can be passed from a parent.
Based on the cause, cardiomyopathy is categorized into:
1. Ischemic cardiomyopathy, caused
by Coronary Artery Disease or heart attacks
2. Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy,
cause not related to Coronary Artery Disease
In the early stages of cardiomyopathy, no signs or symptoms may
appear. But as the condition progresses, the following symptoms may develop
- Swelling in ankles, legs, and feet
- Difficulty in breathing during any physical activity or while at rest
- Abdominal bloating
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Coughing while lying down
- Rapid, fluttering, and pounding heartbeats
- Chest discomfort or pressure
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting
If not treated, the symptoms can worsen, causing serious complications such as:
- Heart failure
- The heart valve dysfunction causes the blood to flow backward
- Blood clots in the heart and if the clots enter the bloodstream, they can block
the blood flow to other organs, including the brain
- Cardiac arrest and sudden death
Risk Factors of Cardiomyopathy
Several factors increase your risk of cardiomyopathy, including:
- Family history
- Past heart attack,
- An infection in the heart, or Coronary Artery Disease
- Long-term high blood pressure
- Use of substance such as amphetamines, cocaine, and
- Long-term alcohol abuse
-Chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatment
The following diseases are also known to increase your risk of cardiomyopathy:
- Hemochromatosis (excess iron in the body )
- Connective tissue disorders
Reducing Your Risks
A healthy lifestyle can help keep your arteries strong and reduce the risk of
developing Coronary Artery Disease. Although in most cases, you cannot prevent congenital inherited)
cardiomyopathy, you can reduce the risk of cardiomyopathy by making healthy lifestyle
choices such as:
- Stay physically active
- Quit smoking, consuming alcohol or drugs
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low
in fat and salt
- Reduce and manage stress
- Maintain your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Go for regular checkups
- Take medicines as prescribed
Prevention is Always Better Than Cure
Most congenital heart diseases can be treated surgically or prescribed medications can
aid in symptoms management. However, most structural heart disorders that develop
later in life can be prevented through lifestyle changes. Atherosclerosis that causes
clogging of the arteries can be prevented by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Avoiding alcohol, drugs, smoking can improve heart health and prevent the development
of diseases. Managing blood pressure is crucial to overall heart health in the long run.'
If lifestyle choices are not well-looked after then complicated surgeries such as valve
replacement, heart transplantation, or open-heart surgery become highly crucial in
disease treatment. This leads to life-long medications and restrictions. Hence, it is
highly important to look after your health before it is too late.