Health

Heart Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors

Heart disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels which can lead to conditions like heart attack, chest pain, or stroke.

Conditions affecting your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm are also types of heart disease.

Types of Heart Disease

It is a broad term including a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Below given are various diseases and conditions that are categorized under the term heart disease:

  • Atherosclerosis – Hardening of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis.
  • Arrhythmia – An arrhythmia is a heart rhythm abnormality.
  • Congenital heart defects – These are the heart irregularities that are present at birth.
  • Cardiomyopathy – This condition causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) – Build-up of plaque in the heart’s arteries can lead to CAD.
  • Heart infections – Heart infections could be caused due to bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Symptoms

Symptoms may show up as per individual heart disease. Let’s read it one by one.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis results in reduced blood supply to your extremities. It may result in chest pain, shortness of breath and some other symptoms as mentioned below:

  • Coldness and numbness especially in the limbs
  • Weakness in your legs and arms
  • Unexplained pain

Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms. This can result in experiencing heartbeats either too fast or too slow which results in showing symptoms accordingly:

  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Light-headedness
  • Slow pulse
  • Fainting spells
  • Giddiness
  • chest pain or discomfort

Congenital heart defects

These are the defects that develop during the growth phase of the fetus. While some of the congenital heart defects cannot be diagnosed, others may be found when they cause symptoms, such as:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Blue skin color

Also Read: Hair Loss: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy leads to enlargement of the heart muscles making them weak, rigid and thick.

In the early stages of cardiomyopathy, there may be no symptoms. But as the condition worsens, symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Breathlessness with exertion or at rest
  • Irregular heartbeats that may be rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Fatigue

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

CAD results due to the build-up of plaque in the arteries whose task is to move oxygen-rich blood through the heart and lungs. The symptoms are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • The feeling of indigestion or gas

Heart infections

The term heart infection may include conditions such as endocarditis or myocarditis.

Symptoms of a heart infection include:

  • Pain in chest
  • Congestion or coughing
  • fever
  • Chills
  • Skin rashes or unusual spots
  • Swelling in your legs or abdomen
  • Weakness or fatigue

Causes of Heart Disease

Depending on the type of heart disease, its cause may vary:

Atherosclerosis Causes

Atherosclerosis which is one of the most common causes of cardiovascular diseases can be caused by modifiable problems, such as

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overweight
  • Smoking

Arrhythmia Causes

Causes of abnormal heart rhythm include:

  • Diabetes
  • CAD
  • Heart defects, including congenital heart defects
  • Certain medications, supplements, and herbal remedies
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Excessive intake of alcohol or caffeine
  • substance use disorders
  • stress and anxiety
  • Previously heart damage or disease

Congenital heart defects causes

These usually develop while a baby is in the womb. Heart defects can develop as the heart develops, almost a month after conception, changing the flow of blood in the heart. Some medical conditions, medications, and genes may play a role in causing heart defects.

The structure of your heart can also change as you age. This can create a heart defect that may lead to complications and problems.

Cardiomyopathy causes

The cause of cardiomyopathy, a thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle, may depend on the type as mentioned below:

Dilated cardiomyopathy– It is not certain what causes this most common type of cardiomyopathy, which results in a weakened heart.

It may be a result of reduced blood flow to the heart (ischemic heart disease) which is a result of damage from a heart attack, infections, toxins, and certain drugs. Alternatively, it may be inherited from a parent. It usually enlarges (dilates) the left ventricle.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy–This is usually inherited and leads to a thicker heart muscle.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy – This is again not certain for the cause. It leads to rigid heart walls. Possible causes may include scar tissue build-up or a type of abnormal protein build-up known as amyloidosis.

Heart infection causes – Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are the most common causes of heart infections. If these are not controlled timely, the infections in the body can harm the heart.

Risk Factors Causing Heart Disease

There are multiple risk factors for heart disease. While some of these are controllable, others aren’t.

  • Age – As you age, the risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle also increases.
  • Sex – Men are while at greater risk of heart diseases, women’s risk increases after menopause.
  • High blood pressure – High blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, which may narrow the vessels through which blood flows.
  • High blood cholesterol levels – High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the chances of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
  • Smoking – Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. It is because Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage the inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.
  • Chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer – Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies may accelerate the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Obesity – Overweight is a general risk factor for many health issues.
  • Diabetes – Both obesity and high blood pressure are common conditions for diabetes and heart disease. Also, diabetes increases the chances of heart disease.
  • Poor diet –  A diet high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can result in an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Lack of good hygiene – If one does not regularly wash hands and not establishes other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections, it can put him at an increased risk of heart infections, which is all the more if you already have an underlying heart condition. Poor dental health also may contribute to heart disease.
  • Family history
  • Physical inactivity
  • Stress

Preventing Heart Disease

While some risk factors or causes of heart disease like age, family history can’t be controlled, others like stress, diet, hygiene, physical activity can be managed. You must pay due attention to these to avert any complications.

Aim to consider the below lifestyle habits:

  • Quit smoking
  • Map a control over other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day daily
  • Take a diet that is low in salt and saturated fat
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce and manage stress
  • Practice good hygiene

Summary

If you feel you have symptoms like chest pain, faintness spells or shortness of breath, you should visit the nearest emergency at the earliest as these are signs of an emergency and need urgent medical attention.

With regards to heart disease, remember that these can’t be cured or reversed. It requires a lifetime of treatment and careful observation. But with medications, procedures and lifestyle changes, a man of the heart disease symptoms can be cured. In case these methods fail, coronary intervention or bypass surgery might be suggested.

Irrespective you have such symptoms or not, it is always going to pay you if you take proper care of your body and heart by following suitable lifestyle habits.

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