Types and Risk Factors of Heart (Cardiovascular) Diseases

Submitted on March 27, 2012

The human heart is the strongest muscle in the body, and it starts working right from when we are in the womb, months before we are born. With every heartbeat, blood is pumped to all corners of the body so that various organs can absorb the nutrients and oxygen that they require to perform their functions. Sometimes, the functioning of heart is adversely affected, resulting in several problems and diseases. Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is a broad term that is used to describe all the disorders that negatively affect the functioning of the heart.

Types of Heart Diseases

It has been observed that chemical heart disease and hypertensive heart disease are the most common types of heart diseases today. Atherosclerosis, which involves the buildup plaque on the inner walls of arteries over several years, is also common, owing to poor dietary choices and sedentary lifestyles. Atherosclerosis results in the restricted flow of blood through the affected artery. When the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, are clogged by plaque, it is termed coronary artery disease.

Additionally, high blood pressure also places an increased burden on the heart, causing the blood to flow at high speeds through the arteries;this can cause an aneurysm or a weakness in the wall of an artery, leading to a life threatening rupture over time.

Rheumatic heart disease is caused by weakening of the heart muscle or damage to the valves of the heart during an attack of rheumatic fever, usually in childhood. Inflammatory heart diseases such as pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the sac enclosing the heart, or myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, may be caused by bacterial, fungal, or viral infections or exposure to certain toxic or allergic chemicals.

Risk Factors

Heart disease risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels in the blood, obesity, diabetes, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, diets rich in saturated fats, and lack of adequate physical activity. The good news is that all these risk factors can be controlled by making suitable lifestyle and dietary changes and with the help of prescribed medication. Those with a family history of cardiovascular disease and obesity need to take particular care with their diet and exercise to maintain optimal body weight. Men and post menopausal women are more at risk than younger women as estrogen offers them protection against heart disease. Chronic stress is another important risk factor contributing to heart failure, as stress leads to high blood pressure. Besides this poor eating habits, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption reduced rest periods can all cause the heart to get stressed out.

Engaging in de-stressing activities like yoga and meditation can go a long way in keeping one's heart healthy and ensuring smooth functioning of the entire cardiovascular system. It is also important to monitor one's lipid levels in the blood to ensure that LDL cholesterol and triglycerides remain within acceptable limits.Keeping a check on these values and keeping them under control is the best way to prevent atherosclerosis or hardening of arteries due to fatty deposits.

When it comes to heart disease, prevention is always better than cure. Making lifestyle changes to incorporate healthy diets, adequate physical activity, and reduce stress are important steps that can help to prevent heart disease, even for those with a family history of the disease. Heart disease treatment often involves medication, coupled with lifestyle and diet changes. In some cases, depending on the type of disease and the person's age, sex, and medical history, surgical procedures may also be needed for treatment, followed by medication. However, heart disease treatment can be an expensive proposition, and so most doctors recommended that we take care of our hearts so as to avoid unnecessary complications, surgeries, and expenses.