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Heart Disease Introduction
We’ve all heard the statistics and know the risks: heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Awareness is truly the key to heart health.
Approximately the size of a closed fist, the heart has a big job to do—pumping blood and oxygen to the entire body. Each day, the heart beats 100,000 times and pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood. Dangerous heart diseases and conditions, to include Coronary Artery Disease—which occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, Arrhythmia—an abnormal heart rhythm, and heart attack—the damage and death of heart muscle—can interrupt the heart’s natural cadence, cutting off the body’s supply of oxygen. Sadly, 1.5 million people experience a heart attack each year.
Risk factors for these conditions include age, smoking, poor diet, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Men are also more likely to develop heart disease, and family history also tends to be a factor.
What can be done to treat heart disease? Many relatively easy lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of heart attack or failure. If you’re a smoker stop immediately, be physically active and follow a healthy diet. It’s also important to have your blood cholesterol checked regularly if you have a family history of heart disease.
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HEART DISEASE 101 The Basics
Anatomy of the Heart
The heart is a muscular organ functioning as a pump that helps supply blood and oxygen to all parts of the body.
WEIGHT: 7—15 ounces (200—425 grams)
SIZE: similar to a closed fist
POSITION: within the chest cavity to the left of the breastbone surrounded by the pericardium
The cardiovascular system is a complex network of arteries that transport blood to the organs, tissues, and cells of the body.
100,000 heartbeats / day
2,000 gallons (7,571 liters) of blood / day
It is divided into FOUR CHAMBERS.
Electrical “pacemaker” cells cause the heart to contract, pumping the blood.
Most common heart diseases
Coronary heart disease (CHD)
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
These conditions occur when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart, inhibiting blood flow. This plaque build-up inside the arteries is called atherosclerosis. It can lead to a heart attack.
CND and CAD cost the U.S. $108.9 billion annually.
An abnormal heart rhythm due to changes in the conduction of electrical impulses through the heart.
It may be caused by CAD, changes in the heart muscle, injury from a heart attack or the healing process after heat surgery.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI)
The damage and death of heart muscle from the sudden blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot. Most heart attacks are the result of CAD.
1.5 million heart attacks occur annually in the U.S.
Failure occurs when the heart’s muscle becomes too damaged to adequately pump the blood. It is caused by CAD, heart attack, conditions that overwork the heart, high blood pressure or heart defects present at birth.
550,000 people diagnosed with heart failure each year } mostly people older than 65
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- Aging increases the risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle.
- Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease, but women’s risk increases after menopause.
- High blood cholesterol levels
- High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of formation of plaque formation and atherosclerosis.
- Nicotine constricts blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.
- Poor diet
- A diet high in fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
- High blood pressure
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
- Family history
- There is an increase in the risk of heart attack if a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) has had a heart attack or stroke.
- Mainly seen when the relative has had a heart attack } before the age of 45 if they are male } before the age of 55 if they are female
- 15% of heart attacks are caused by family genetic disorders
Most common tests to diagnose heart diseases
- ECG (Electrocardiogram)
- A simple painless test that shows how fast the heart is beating and its rhythm (steady or irregular).
- Holter monitoring
- A portable device used to record a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours; it detects heart rhythm irregularities that aren’t found during a regular ECG exam.
- Stress testing
- Used to determine the amount of stress that the heart can manage before developing either an abnormal rhythm or evidence of iscehmia (not enough blood flow to the heart muscle).
- Echocardiography (echo)
- Uses sound waves to show areas of poor blood flow to the heart, areas of heart muscle that aren’t contracting normally and previous injury to the heart muscle caused by poor blood flow.
- Chest x-ray
- Creates pictures of the organs and structures inside the chest, such as heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It can reveal signs of heart failure.
- Blood tests
- Check the levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins in the blood.
Treatment of heart disease
- Quit smoking
- Be physically active
- Follow a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
Medicines to help
- Reduce the heart’s workload and relieve CHD symptoms
- Lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and other CHD risk factors
- Prevent blood clots
- Prevent or delay the need for a procedure or surgery such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
Medical and surgical procedures
ANGIOPLASTY is a nonsurgical procedure through which a surgeon opens blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.
CABG is a type of surgery during which a surgeon removes arteries or veins from other areas in the body and uses them to bypass narrowed or blocked coronary arteries.
Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) A two-part medically supervised program that can improve the health and well-being of people who have heart problems.
PART 1: Exercise training
Helps learn how to exercise safely, strengthen muscles and improve stamina and is based on personal abilities, needs and interests.
PART 2: Education, counselling and training
Helps understand the heart condition and find ways to lower risk for future heart problems.
What you can do to prevent heart disease
- Get enough exercise
- Don’t smoke
- Check your blood cholesterol regularly in case of family history of heart disease
- Control your blood pressure
- Lower your cholesterol
UNIVERSITY of FLORIDA