It is important know and understand the most prevalent forms of cardiovascular disease. Recognizing the dangers of poor heart health is one of the most important steps to preventing it.
Atherosclerosis is actually the main cause of many forms of cardiovascular disease. It refers to the gradual buildup of fat and cholesterol on the walls of the arteries. This fatty buildup is called plaque. Too much plaque can eventually affect the blood's ability to flow through the arteries. Plaque can also rupture, which can lead to a blood clot and block the flow of blood altogether. When this happens, the result is a stroke or a heart attack. There are usually no symptoms of atherosclerosis until it severely narrows or blocks an artery. Atherosclerosis does, however, affect your blood pressure, which is why it is so important to have your blood pressure checked by a doctor at least every two years.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when a blood clot suddenly cuts off most or all blood supply to a part of the heart. When this happens, the cells of the heart do not receive enough oxygen-rich blood and, as a result, die. A heart attack most often occurs as a direct result of atherosclerosis. Time is essential when experiencing a heart attack. Time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow is more time for cells of the heart to die, and for permanent damage to occur.
Angina is chest pain or discomfort associated with heart disease. It is a symptom of a condition called myocardial ischemia, which occurs when the heart doesn't receive as much blood and oxygen as it needs due to a narrowing or blockage of vessels that supply the heart with blood. Angina is a warning sign of an increased risk of heart attack and should be treated as an emergency.
Contrary to popular belief, heart failure does not mean that the heart has completely stopped working (that condition is called sudden cardiac arrest). Heart failure is the term used to describe the condition when a heart is not working as efficiently as it should. It either can't fill with enough blood or it can't pump with enough force, or both. This can be caused by a number of other heart problems, including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure or a past heart attack. As the heart's ability to pump weakens, blood and other fluids can back up into and around the lungs.
Heart Valve Disease
There are many different types of heart valve disease, which affects the valves that control the flow of blood between the chambers of the heart. Valve diseases on the right side of the heart-resulting from diseases of the pulmonary and tricuspid valve-are rare and are usually caused by congenital heart problems. But valve diseases on the left side of the heart-resulting from diseases of the aortic and mitral valves-are more common and can lead to an accumulation of fluids in the lungs. Valve diseases may be a consequence of narrowed valves, due to atherosclerosis or other damage to the heart. Leaking valves are often due to bacterial infections or inflammation, an enlargement of the heart or a condition called mitral valve prolapse.
Stroke is a form of cardiovascular disease because it originates in the circulatory system, even though it ultimately affects the brain. A stroke occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients from normal blood flow, much like the heart during a heart attack. For this reason, a stroke is sometimes referred to as a "brain attack." Blocked blood flow to the brain can occur in one of two ways. A blood clot can block an artery carrying blood to the brain, or a weakened blood vessel can rupture. When this happens, brain cells begin to die, which, if not caught in time, can result in irreparable brain damage or death. This is why timing is so important with strokes.