Health Education: A Guide to Heart Disease

Heart disease is a term that is used to describe numerous different heart related issues. Many heart related problems are related to atherosclerosis which is a condition that develops due to a buildup of plaque on artery walls. The buildup causes the arteries to narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow through. A blood clot can then form which can stop the flow of blood completely, leading to a stroke or heart attack.

Heart Attack

A person experiences a heart attack when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked off by a blood clot. When blood cannot flow to the heart, the heart muscle begins to die. While many people survive heart attacks they can be life threatening and those that do survive will likely need to make some lifestyle changes in addition to possibly taking medication. The specific changes that need to be made will be determined by the amount of damage to the heart and the degree of disease that caused the attack.

Stroke

The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke which occurs when one of the blood vessels that feeds the brain becomes blocked. Usually the blockage is caused by a blood clot. A stroke causes brain cells to die which can affect a person’s ability to carry out functions such as talking or walking. While some of the effects of a stroke may be temporary, others can be permanent if too many brain cells die due to the lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

Heart Arrhythmia

An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm in which the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Bradycardia is a condition in which the heart beats too slow, normally at a rate of less than sixty beats per minute. Tachycardia is a condition that occurs where the heart beats too fast, normally more than one hundred beats per minute. Arrhythmia’s can affect how well the heart is able to function.

Heart Failure

Heart failure is also commonly referred to as congestive heart failure. It does not mean that the heart stops beating but that it is not pumping blood as well as it should be. With heart failure, the heart works, but not well enough the meet the blood and oxygen needs of the body. If left untreated, heart failure can worsen so it is important to seek treatment from a qualified doctor.

Heart Valve Issues

There can be various problems with the heart valve including stenosis. Stenosis means that blood cannot flow through as it should because the heart valves do not open enough. Another condition is called regurgitation which means that blood can leak through because the heart valves do not close properly.

Treating Heart Disease

Heart disease can encompass many different conditions so treatment options will vary depending on a person’s diagnosis. Some heart issues can be fixed with medication but more serious problems may require surgery, or the use of a pacemaker. Surgical procedures for treating heart disease include bypass surgery, angioplasty, stent procedures, cardiomyoplasty, and transplant.

Preventing Heart Disease

There are many steps that people can take to prevent heart disease. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough physical activity are both important in having a healthy heart. A poor diet and lack of exercise can greatly increase the risk of developing heart disease. Smokers are also more likely to develop heart disease so it is important to not smoke and to stay away from secondhand smoke.

Heart disease can be life threatening so people should educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of heart disease so help can be sought if necessary. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in having a healthy heart. For additional information on heart health and preventing heart disease, check out the following resources.


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