Regardless of injury, disease or fatigue our hearts beat 72 times a minute to meet the demands of our bodies. In 2005, 652,091 people died of heart disease, half of them were women, representing 27.1% of all U.S. deaths. Coronary heart disease accounted for 68.3% of those heart disease deaths.
Types of heart disease:
Coronary heart disease: is the most common cause of heart disease. Coronary arteries provide the heart with its own separate circulation. If coronary blood vessels are damaged or thickened with plaque from excess fat and cholesterol or narrowed from atherosclerosis oxygen is reduced and heart attacks can occur.
Angina or chest pain: occurs because the heart is not getting enough blood due to coronary artery disease.
Arrhythmias: prevent the heart chambers from filling properly and require specific treatments.
Hypertension: forces the heart to work harder against narrowed arteries causing the heart to enlarge and weaken leading to cardiomyopathy.
Cardiomyopathy: results in thickened walls of the heart or dilation of the internal chambers.
Aortic aneurysms: occur from the constant force of high blood pressure and risks rupture and death.
Valve disease: is the result of damage causing heart valves to not properly close. Blood backs up rather than being pushed forward each time the heart beats. If severe, congestive heart failure can occur.
Congestive heart failure: occurs when the heart cannot effectively pump blood to the body. Congestion causes fluid to seep into the surrounding tissues and lungs. Symptoms of shortness of breath, swelling in the extremities and paleness develop.
How is heart disease detected?
A routine check up with a doctor can reveal the beginnings of heart disease based on a physical exam, EKG, chest x-ray and lab work specifically checking cholesterol levels.
A stress test may be ordered to measure how hard the heart works when exercising. A nuclear stress test is used if the person cannot exercise then an injected isotope’s shows where blood flow is reduced revealed with a special camera.
A cardiac catherization is a special test where dye is injected through a catheter towards the heart. Flow to the coronary blood vessels is measured as well as the effective filling in the chambers of the heart.
Reviewing risk factors will indicate your likelihood of developing heart disease.
High blood pressure
Elevated cholesterol levels
Lack of exercise Heredity or ethnicity may contribute.
African Americans and Indians have a significantly higher incidence of heart disease.
Treatments for heart disease:
Medications for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, directics for congestive heart failure and anticoagulant drugs are frequently prescribed for those with heart disease.
A heart attack is often the first sign indicating coronary artery disease. CPR and treatment with an AED and quick emergency treatment will allow special clot busting drugs to be administered.
Advanced treatments for obstruction of the coronary arteries help to save lives. If chest pain is due to narrowing of the coronary arteries then PTCA or balloon angioplasty can be performed. A small catheter with a special balloon tip is inserted in a large vein to reach the blocked artery. The balloon is inflated to open the narrowing and sometimes “a stent”, a cage like spacer can be placed to keep the artery open. If medications and other treatments are not successful, a surgery called a CABG- Coronary Artery Bypass Graft may be considered.
How to prevent and control heart disease:
1. Have blood pressure checked regularly. Take medications as prescribed, especially blood pressure, arrhythmia and cholesterol medications.
2. Lower cholesterol by eating a healthful diet that is low in saturated fat. Watch sodium intake and reduce your weight if needed.
3. If you have diabetes, follow your treatment plan closely. Diabetics have a much greater risk of dying from heart disease.
4. Stop smoking. Smokers have twice the risk of developing a heart attack
5. Increased exercise to 30 minutes a day to reduce other risk factors of heart disease.
6. If you drink, consume less alcohol. Alcohol raises blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Heart disease not only can cause death but can create a major form of disability affecting one’s quality of life. Adhering to a plan to reduce risk and improve heart health will increase one’s chances of living a longer more active life and enjoying family activities for years to come.