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Unfortunately, heart disease is still among the top 3 killers in the United States.
The diseases of the heart include: coronary heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, heart valve disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, pericardial disease, marfan syndrome, and vascular disease.
All of these diseases affect the structure or function of the heart. Here we look at some of the diseases, including coronary heart disease (the one that most people think of when they think of diseases of the heart), and what causes heart disease of different kinds.
Congenital heart disease is a type of birth defect affecting approximately 500,000 adults in the United States. These defects may be minor requiring no treatment at all or more serious, requiring surgery and/or lifelong monitoring and medications.
Factors believed to be included in what causes heart disease of this type includes genetics, chromosomal abnormalities, drug use, alcohol use and the use of certain medications during pregnancy. Viral infections in the mother during the early stages of pregnancy can also lead to congenital diseases of the heart.
Heart failure is one disease that can be caused by other diseases of the heart including coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease and cardiomyopathy. Other conditions that cause damage to the heart muscle, such as high blood pressure, thyroid disease, kidney disease and diabetes, alone or in combination with other conditions, may be what causes heart disease known as heart failure.
The term heart failure is confusing to many people and can be a very scary diagnosis to hear from the doctor. It does not mean that the heart has stopped working, but that its pumping power is weaker than normal. According to the American Heart Association, those who suffer from heart failure can lead full active lives by paying close attention to diet, exercising moderately and following their doctor's recommendations. Controlling other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes is also important.
Cardiomyopathy or heart muscle disease is one of the progressive diseases of the heart. As this disease progresses, the heart becomes enlarged, thicker and stiffer, weakening its ability to pump blood, causing blood to back up into the lungs and/or the rest of the body. What causes heart disease of this type includes coronary artery disease, thyroid disease, alcoholism, diabetes, congenital heart disease and viral infections of the heart. In addition, cardiomyopathy may be inherited, caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure or simply age.
Abnormal heart rhythms may be harmless, a result of too much caffeine, nicotine or excessive exercising. Or they may be a symptom of coronary heart disease or other diseases of the heart. Thus treatment depends on the cause.
The diseases of the heart can be broken down into two very simple categories: those which are related to, caused by, or a symptom of coronary artery disease and those that are not.
Heart failure, cardiomyopathy, certain types of heart valve disease, pericardial disease and vascular disease fall into the first category. Congenital diseases of the heart, marfan syndrome and other inherited conditions fall into the second group.
This is also similar to the way that experts look at what causes heart disease: those things that can be controlled and those things that cannot. It is believed that coronary artery disease can be prevented and even reversed with proper treatment, dietary changes, exercise, and control of blood sugar, blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. In addition, certain dietary supplements including antioxidants, B-vitamins and folic acid appear to be helpful.
Coronary artery disease is a condition in which a build-up of plaque inside the blood vessels leading to the heart reduces blood flow to the heart, causing blood vessels to initially increase in size and eventually to lose elasticity. In some cases, new blood vessels form to bypass the obstruction and carry more blood to the heart.
However, the new blood vessels are weaker and sometimes collapse or burst. When the obstruction becomes so large that it blocks the flow of blood completely a heart attack occurs. In many cases, people are unaware that they have coronary artery disease, until they have a heart attack.