What is heart disease?

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dano7744's profile pic

dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Heart disease or cardiomyopathy is endemic in the U.S. and is a major contributing factor of premature death and disability. There are numerous types of cardiomyopathy with varying etiologies (causes) and varying treatments depending on the nature of the problem. A common etiology of heart disease is undiagnosed or uncontrolled hypertension(high blood pressure). Hypertension causes untoward changes in the heart muscle like LVH, left ventricular hypertrophy. Due to increased pressure in the CV (cardiovascular) system the chambers of the heart and particularly the left ventricle become enlarged or hypertrophied which alters the ability of the muscle to be an effective "pump" for the body as a whole. Other common causes of heart disease are smoking, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and lack of exercise. Smoking constricts blood vessels thereby increasing blood pressure and lowering the amount of blood supplied to the heart muscle. Hyperlipidemia also disrupts blood flow to the muscle due to cholesterol plague deposits in the lumen(inside lining) of blood vessels. It also causes decreased vascular tone and increased vascular resistance which leads to decreased elasticity of the cardiovascular system(hardening of the arteries). Sedentary lifestyles also contribute to heart disease. Exercise causes the body to become more efficient in delivering oxygen rich blood to all tissues. All organs (heart included) need a constant supply of oxygen which is obtained through the pumping action of the heart and patency of the circulatory system.

ophelious's profile pic

ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

"Heart disease" can have take a lot of different shapes and forms depending on what is causing it.  It is kind of like a "blanket term" that encompasses all sorts of things that can go wrong with the ol' ticker.

Here are some examples of different types of heart diseases and their causes.

  • Coronary Heart Disease -- this is where you end up with lots of plaque on your arteries and it impedes the blood flowing to the heart.  Close to 1/2 million people in the US die of this a year.
  • Cardiomyopathy -- this is where your heart muscle  actually starts to fail and can be caused by a lot of reasons.   Some are genetic/hereditary, some are not.
  • Cardiovascular disease -- especially affects the veins and arteries that supply the heart. 
  • Ischaemic heart disease -- This is a disease that affects the heart's ability to supply the other organs with blood.
  • Heart failure -- can be caused by lots of things, but basically means that the heart cannot fill with, or supply, enough blood to the rest of the body.
  • Hypertensive heart disease -- failure of the heart due to conditions resulting from high blood pressure.
  • Inflamatory heart disease -- This is when the tissue that surrounds the heart (or the heart itself) becomes inflamed and the heart can no longer do its job.
  • Valvular heart disease -- This is when the valves of the heart don't open and close like they should.

This list isn't meant to be all inclusive, and you would have to research more specifically those that were of interest to you, but I think it gives you an overview of the types of problems that can affect your love-pump.  Your mom was right...eat your veggies, get lots of exercise, and say no to supersizing : )

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