Find out your risk for Heart Disease
Video C: Heart Failure Overview
Video B: Congestive Heart Failure
Video A: How plaque forms
Image A: An artery blood flower before and after atheroscerosis
Artherosclerosis Heart Disease
Heart disease includes a number of problems related to the heart and surrounding vessels. Many of the problems relate directly to a process where "plaque" builds up in the walls of the arteries. This is know as Atherosclerosis. This plaque buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through (See Image A). If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow all together and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Plaque forms in vessels when (See Video A)
Symptoms for this type of heart failure include chest pain or tightness, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and shortness of breath; particularly during minimal activity.
Another form of heart disease is called "Heart Failure"; sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure. This is when the heart is not pumping as well as it should. That being said, there is a left-sided and a right-sided heart failure.
During left-sided heart failure, the side of the heart that is responsible for pumping blood directly to the body (the left side) is either too weak to do so or has to work harder to pump against increased pressure from atherosclerosis. This causes fluid to back-up into the lungs, causing symptoms like increased coughing, blood-tinged saliva, fatigue, restlessness, and shortness of breath during minimal activity or especially when laying down.
Right-sided heart failure usually occurs as a result of left-sided failure. When the left side of the heart isn't able to pump efficiently, there is a backup of fluid into the lungs and ultimately more work is put on the right side of the heart. As the ride side loses pumping power, there is a further backup of fluid into the surrounding tissue. Symptoms of ride-sided heart failure include swelling in the legs and abdomen, protruding neck veins, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
When both the right and left side of the heart are modified, congestive heart failure results (See Video B).
Heart disease can also be caused by an infection. It may be either pericarditis, which affects the tissue surrounding the heart; myocarditis, which affects the muscular middle layer within the heart; or endocarditis, which affects the valves of the heart. Varying slightly with each type of infection, heart infection symptoms can include fever, skin rash or unusual spots, a persistent cough, or swelling in the legs and abdomen.
Age: Simply getting older increases your risk.
Gender: Men are at greater risk of heart disease. The risk for a woman increases after menopause, especially those taking hormone therapy.
Family history: A family history of heart disease increases your risk. This risk increases dramatically if a male relative was diagnosed before the age of 55 or before 65 for a female relative.
Smoking: Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.
Poor diet choices: A diet that's high in fat, salt and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
High blood pressure: Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows. This puts more stress on the heart to pump through narrowed vessels.
High blood cholesterol levels: High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis. Plaques are caused by a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as "bad" cholesterol, or a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as "good" cholesterol.
Diabetes: High blood sugar levels harms the lining within the vessels, leaving them more susceptible to collecting plaque. Among other reasons, diabetes or uncontrolled elevated blood sugar levels highly increases your risk of heart disease.
Obesity: Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors and increases the work load on the heart.
Physical inactivity: Lack of exercise also is associated with many forms of heart disease and some of its other risk factors, as well.
High stress: Unrelieved stress in your life may damage your arteries as well as worsen other risk factors for heart disease.
Poor hygiene: Not regularly washing your hands and failure to establish other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put you at risk of heart infections, especially if you already have an underlying heart condition. This also include dental health.
You might not be diagnosed with heart disease until your condition worsens to the point that you have a heart attack, stroke or chest pain. It's important to watch for these symptoms and discuss any concerns with your doctor. Heart disease can sometimes be found early with regular visits to your doctor, along with avoiding risk factors and participating in heart healthy activities.
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