Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a blanket term that refers to any type of disorder that affects the heart, the blood vessels, or both. It is the leading cause of death in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia—with over 25% of all deaths in America attributed to heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many deaths from heart disease can be prevented through education and a commitment to change unhealthy habits. With that in mind, we’ve decided to kick off our heart disease blog series to provide readers with clear, easy to recall information, healthy living tips, and red flags to look out for. In this post we’ll cover the types of heart disease and the chief causes. Coming up, we’ll go over simple tips for prevention, common symptoms of heart diseases, and how to cope with diagnoses, tests, treatment, and care.
What Causes Heart Disease
Of the abundant problems that accompany cardiovascular disease, many are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a process in which an artery wall thickens as a result of the accumulation plaque buildup. This accretion narrows the arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, blood flow is ceased—causing a stroke or heart attack. While experts aren’t aware how atherosclerosis begins to form in arteries, the process to begin in the teenage years and seems to stem from damage to the arterial wall. This damage, which permits the accumulation of plaque, may result from:
- high blood pressure
- cigarette smoke
- high LDL cholesterol
- low HDL cholesterol
Preventing the Clog
Before we jump into defining types of heart disease, lets go over some preventative tips to curbing plaque buildup that clog arteries. While certain types of heart disease, such as heart defects, can’t be prevented there are a few lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce plaque buildup—and likelihood to develop heart disease.
Exercise regularly – Even committing to walking regularly for 30 minutes (3-4 times a week) is extremely beneficial.
Don’t smoke – Smokefree.gov has resources for people looking to quit, craving a cigarette, or advice to help someone you love quit smoking.
Eat healthy – Maintain a diet that is low in saturated fat and salt. Mayo clinic published a helpful article about eight steps to a heart-healthy diet.
Limit alcohol usage – Avoid drinking too much, which causes high blood pressure.
Types of Heart Disease
Angina: While this is not a heart disease itself, it is a primary symptom of coronary heart disease and something to be aware of. Angina causes tightening and pain in the chest—sometimes described as a “squeezing” sensation.
Congenital Heart Disease: This refers to defects or abnormalities in the heart that have been present since birth. Common defects disrupt proper blood flow, causing symptoms such as: rapid heartbeat, bluish skin, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Congestive Heart Failure: This condition is common in older people and occurs when the heart can no longer distribute blood to the rest of the body—and is usually the result from damage done by a heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and cancer treatments.
Coronary Heart Disease: The most common type of heart disease that occurs when arteries are narrowed and hardened by plaque buildup.
Hypertensive Heart Disease: This type refers to a collection of heart problems caused by high blood pressure and hypertension.
Inflammatory Heart Disease: This type involves inflammation of the heart muscles caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.
Pulmonary Heart Disease: Also called “right-side heart failure,” occurs when a lung infection affects the heart.