Heart disease is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels. Examples of blood vessel diseases include coronary artery disease and varicose veins. On the other hand, common conditions affecting the heart include heart arrhythmia’s and heart failure.
Heart disease mainly results from sedentary lifestyles. However, it could also be caused by an underlying medical condition. Certain heart conditions, especially heart defects, occur from birth.
Heart disease is often confused with cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease refers to the conditions that lead to impaired functionality of blood vessels. These conditions mostly manifest in the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels. However, if not treated with the urgency it deserves, cardiovascular disease could quickly degenerate into heart disease.
Causes of Heart Disease
As we already mentioned, there are numerous forms of heart disease. Therefore, the causes depend on the type of illness in question.
The following section shall highlight a few types of heart disease, along with their causes.
Arteriosclerosis results from excess cholesterol build-up in the blood. When these cholesterol deposits accumulate in your arteries, they could cause arterial blockage or constrictions.
That ultimately inhibits the flow of blood to the heart. And as the heart can no longer receive sufficient oxygen, its efficiency is significantly reduced.
Arrhythmias refer to abnormal heart rhythms. Some of the most popular forms of arrhythmias include irregular heartbeats and uneven pulses. Numerous conditions can lead to heart arrhythmias, including heart defects, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Specific lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, have also been associated with heart arrhythmias.
Destructive lifestyle habits like smoking and drug abuse could increase your susceptibility to arrhythmias. The same holds true for stress, some dietary supplements, herbal remedies, and certain drugs. Heart arrhythmias aren’t fatal unless there’s a more severe trigger like electrical shock.
3. Congenital heart defects
These refer to heart abnormalities that develop during pregnancy, usually within the first month after conception.
They usually result from certain medical conditions and medications. However, they could also be caused by genetic predisposition.
Cardiomyopathy refers to the thickening of the heart muscles. The causes of enlarged heart muscles vary depending on the type.
Dilated cardiomyopathy may be caused by toxins, heart attack, infections, or any condition that impedes the flow of blood to the heart.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an inherited type of cardiomyopathy. However, it could also result from hypertension, and is common among the elderly.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is usually idiopathic. Besides, it can be caused by conditions like hemochromatosis and amyloidosis. Some cancer treatments may also lead to restrictive cardiomyopathy.
5. Heart infection
As vital as it is, the heart gets infected the same way other organs do. Common agents of heart infection are bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
6. Valvular heart disease
Diseases of the heart valves often emanate from connective tissue disorders. However, other infections like rheumatic fever and infectious endocarditis may also enhance susceptibility to valvular heart disease.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Like causes, the symptoms of heart disease depend on the condition in question. However, the following are the typical heart disease symptoms;
- Shortness of breath, especially during exercise or a high-energy activity
- Skin pallor
- Dry and persistent cough
- Recurring skin rashes
- Unexplained pain throughout the body
- Inflammations in various places within the body, especially if the condition causes a blood clot in your blood vessels. Common spots include your hands, feet, neck or ankles.
It’s unlikely that you’ll experience all the above symptoms. The severity of the symptoms will also depend on the specific heart disease you’re suffering from.
Being Proactive About Your Health
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US. And the disease has maintained that reputation for some time now. That’s primarily due to late diagnoses. You should remember that heart disease can develop over time without exhibiting any life-threatening symptoms. You’ll only comprehend its magnitude when the condition is triggered by an external factor such as an electrical shock. When that happens, it’s often too late. You can choose to be part of these worrying statistics, or you can take preventive measures to keep the condition at bay.
First and foremost, you should understand the risk factors for heart disease. The following are some of these factors;
- Age – The older you get, the more likely your blood vessels will get damaged. The weakening of heart muscles also progresses with age.
- Sex – Men are more likely to develop heart disease than women. The risks among women increase once they reach menopause.
- Poor dieting –Diets laden with fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar are major risk factors for heart disease. Along with poor dieting is poor hygiene, especially dental hygiene.
- Family history – Various forms of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease, are hereditary.
- Lifestyle diseases – Diseases like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes all contribute to heart conditions.
- Sedentary lifestyles – People who lead physically inactive lifestyles are highly susceptible to heart disease. More so, if poor dietary habits also accompany such lifestyles. Your susceptibility is even more enhanced if you also suffer from stress and depression.
- Smoking – The nicotine present in tobacco destroys almost all cells within the body, including blood cells. The carbon monoxide produced when smoking enters the bloodstream, binds with hemoglobin to form a compound known as oxyhemoglobin. This compound prevents the transportation of oxygen across blood vessels, hence weakening the inner linings of these vessels.
- Certain drugs – The use of some drugs has also been linked to heart disease. Notable mentions include chemotherapy and radiation therapy drugs.
Whether you’re a risk factor or not, you should always go for regular tests. When it comes to heart disease, early diagnosis can make all the difference. Don’t wait till you experience heart attacks or heart failure to seek medical attention. By this time, the condition might have already degenerated to unmanageable levels.
Also remember, there are some risk factors that we can’t do anything about, such as age, sex, and family history. However, we can avoid most of these risk factors.
For instance, you don’t need a nutritionist to remind you of the dangers of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt diets. Similarly, you don’t need hundreds of awareness campaigns to comprehend the potential risks of cigarette smoking. Exercising regularly should be part of your personal commitment. According to experts, you need 45 minutes of intensive exercise, at least three days a week.
Avoid self-destructive habits like smoking and drug abuse. Strive to stay away from mental and psychological triggers like stress and depression. Above all, always seek medication whenever you come down with a disease, especially one that exhibits symptoms similar to those of heart conditions.
The Role of Primary Care Physicians for Heart Disease
Even if you take all the necessary precautions to ward off heart disease, it might still knock on your door one way or another. It’s good to always be on the lookout for the symptoms. However, it’s even better to understand how to manage the condition when it occurs. And that’s where a primary care physician comes in.
But when should you see your primary care doctor? First, you should talk to your primary care physician if you have a family history of heart disease. The doctor will help construct your medical profile before referring you to a cardiologist. You might also consider visiting your physician if you suffer from any condition associated with heart problems. Examples include heart pains, hypertension, and inflammation on blood vessels. Diabetic patients, cigarette addicts, and women with high-risk pregnancies should also make a date with their primary care physicians. The same applies to those who wish to begin a new diet or exercise program.
Most importantly, make regular visits to your primary care physician even when you believe you’re in perfect shape. The doctor will help monitor your condition, carefully watching out for symptoms of heart disease. They will also recommend the best exercise programs, dietary habits, and lifestyle changes to help you stay out of harm’s way.
Even if you’re already a victim, your primary care physician will try to treat the condition before referring you to a cardiologist. They will often recommend treatment plans that address the root cause of the problem, such as functional medicine. For patients of heart disease, functional medicine is especially paramount. That’s because the methods used don’t present significant side effects.
When it comes to heart disease, early detection is everything. You can incorporate the lifestyle and dietary adjustments highlighted above. And if you’re already suffering from the condition, make a date with your primary care physician for further guidance.Leave a reply