What is heart disease?
Heart disease is any condition that affects the structure or function of the heart. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But in fact, heart disease is a group of conditions with many different root causes.
Types of heart disease
There are many different types of heart disease. Some types can be grouped together according to how they affect the structure or function of your heart.
Coronary artery disease is due to deposition of cholesterol in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Coronary artery disease happens when the arteries in your heart are narrowed or blocked. It’s the most common kind of heart disease and causes most heart attacks as well as angina (chest pain).
Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) cause the heart to beat too slow, too fast or in a disorganized fashion. There are many types of arrhythmias – some have no symptoms or warning signs; others can be sudden and fatal.
Structural heart disease refers to abnormalities of the heart’s structure – including its valves, walls, muscles or blood vessels. It can be present at birth (congenital) or acquired after birth through infection, wear and tear, or other factors.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until a person experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia. When these events happen, symptoms may include
1. Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
2. Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
3. Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
The exact cause of CVD isn’t clear, but there are lots of things that can increase your risk of getting it. These are called “risk factors”. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing CVD. The main risk factors for CVD are outlined below.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol (LDL)
- Being overweight or obese
- Family history of Cardiovascular Disease
- Ethnic background (More in south Asian and an African or Caribbean background.)
Other risk factors
Other factors that affect your risk of developing CVD include:
(a) Age – CVD is most common in people over 50 and your risk of developing it increases as you get older
(b) Gender – men are more likely to develop CVD at an earlier age than women
(c) Diet – an unhealthy diet can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure
(d) Alcohol – excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and contribute to weight gain