Heart Disease

Learn about heart disease symptoms, risk factors and prevention.

1. Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease often simply called heart disease is the main form of heart disease. It is a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to heart attack. A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. Heart disease is one of several cardiovascular diseases, which are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system. Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure, angina chest pain, and rheumatic heart disease.
One reason some women aren t too concerned about heart disease is that they think it can be cured with surgery or medication. This is a myth. Heart disease is a lifelong condition once you get it, you ll always have it. True, procedures such as bypass surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention can help blood and oxygen flow to the heart more easily. But the arteries remain damaged, which means you are more likely to have a heart attack. What s more, the condition of your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you make changes in your daily habits. Many women die of complications from heart disease, or become permanently disabled. That s why it is so vital to take action to prevent and control this disease.

2. Who Gets Heart Disease
Your heart is a finely tuned instrument, but many things can go wrong inside and around it. Heart disease can involve your hearts arteries, the valves between your hearts chambers, your hearts electrical system, or the strength of your heart muscle. A genetic predisposition for heart disease, other medical conditions, and your lifestyle choices can put your heart in danger.

3. Symptoms
Cardiovascular disease is caused by narrowed, blocked or stiffened blood vessels that prevent your heart, brain or other parts of your body from receiving enough blood. Cardiovascular disease symptoms may be different for men and women. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain; women are more likely to have symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue.
Symptoms can include:
  • Chest pain angina
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
    You might not be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until you have a heart attack, angina, stroke or heart failure. It s important to watch for cardiovascular symptoms and discuss concerns with your doctor. Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular exams.

  • 4. Types of heart diseases
    Rheumatic heart disease
    Rheumatic heart disease is caused by one or more attacks of rheumatic fever, which then do damage to the heart, particularly the heart valves. Rheumatic fever usually occurs in childhood, and may follow a streptococcal infection. In some cases, the infection affects the heart and may result in scarring the valves, weakening the heart muscle, or damaging the sac enclosing the heart. The valves are sometimes scarred so they do not open and close normally.
    Hypertensive heart disease
    High blood pressure of unknown origin primary hypertension or caused by secondary hypertension certain specific diseases or infections, such as tumor in the adrenal glands, damage to or disease of the kidneys or their blood vessels. High blood pressure may overburden the heart and blood vessels and cause disease.
    Ischemic heart disease
    Heart ailments caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries and therefore a decreased blood supply to the heart.
    Cerebrovascular disease
    Disease pertaining to the blood vessels in the brain. A cerebrovascular accident or stroke is the result of an impeded blood supply to some part of the brain.
    Inflammatory heart disease
    Inflammation of the heart muscle myocarditis, the membrane sac pericarditis which surround the heart, the inner lining of the heart endocarditis or the myocardium heart muscle. Inflammation may be caused by known toxic or infectious agents or by an unknown origin.

    5. Call Your Doctor About a heart disease if
    The keys to managing heart failure are to take your medications, make diet changes, exercise regularly and be active, live a healthy lifestyle, monitor your health for new or worsening heart failure signs or symptoms, and keep your medical appointments. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how often to visit. If you are having any of the symptoms described in this handout, DO NOT wait for your next appointment to tell your doctor or nurse. If your symptoms are discovered early, your doctor or nurse may change your medications to relieve your symptoms. Do not change or stop taking your medications without first talking to your doctor or nurse.

    6. How Is Heart Disease Treated
    Treatment for coronary heart disease CHD usually is the same for both women and men. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medicines, medical and surgical procedures, and cardiac rehabilitation rehab.
    The goals of treatment are to:
  • Relieve symptoms.
  • Reduce risk factors in an effort to slow, stop, or reverse the buildup of plaque.
  • Lower the risk of blood clots forming. Blood clots can cause a heart attack.
  • Widen or bypass plaque clogged coronary heart arteries.
  • Prevent CHD complications.

  • 7. Quit Smoking
    If you smoke or use tobacco, try to quit. Smoking can raise your risk for CHD and heart attack and worsen other CHD risk factors. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke. If you find it hard to quit smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. Many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking. For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute s NHLBI s Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.

    8. Follow a Healthy Diet
    A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet includes a variety of vegetables and fruits. These foods can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. A good rule is to try to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits. A healthy diet also includes whole grains, fat free or low fat dairy products, and protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and peas.
    Choose and prepare foods with little sodium salt. Too much salt can raise your risk for high blood pressure. Studies show that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension DASH eating plan can lower blood pressure. Try to avoid foods and drinks that are high in added sugars. For example, drink water instead of sugary drinks, like soda.
    Also, try to limit the amount of solid fats and refined grains that you eat. Solid fats are saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Refined grains come from processing whole grains, which results in a loss of nutrients such as dietary fiber. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Research suggests that regularly drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol may lower the risk of CHD. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink a day.
    One drink a day can lower your CHD risk by raising your HDL cholesterol level. One drink is a glass of wine, beer, or a small amount of hard liquor. If you don t drink, this isn t a recommendation to start using alcohol. Also, you shouldn t drink if you re pregnant, if you re planning to become pregnant, or if you have another health condition that could make alcohol use harmful.

    9. Stress and Depression
    Research shows that getting upset or angry can trigger a heart attack. Also, some of the ways people cope with stress such as drinking, smoking, or overeating aren t heart healthy. Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health.
    Having supportive people in your life with whom you can share your feelings or concerns can help relieve stress. Physical activity, yoga, and relaxation therapy also can help relieve stress. You may want to consider taking part in a stress management program.
    Depression can double or triple your risk for CHD. Depression also makes it hard to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. Talk with your doctor if you have symptoms of depression, such as feeling hopeless or not taking interest in daily activities. He or she may recommend counseling or prescribe medicines to help you manage the condition.

    10. Medicines
    You may need medicines to treat CHD if lifestyle changes aren t enough. Medicines can help:
  • Reduce your heart s workload and relieve CHD symptoms
  • Decrease your chance of having a heart attack or dying suddenly
  • Lower your 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 AN jee oh plas tee or coronary artery bypass grafting CABG
  • Women who have coronary microvascular disease and anemia may benefit from taking medicine to treat the anemia.
    Women who have broken heart syndrome also may need medicines. Doctors may prescribe medicines to relieve fluid buildup, treat blood pressure problems, prevent blood clots, and manage stress hormones. Most people who have broken heart syndrome make a full recovery within weeks.
    Take all of your medicines as prescribed. If you have side effects or other problems related to your medicines, tell your doctor. He or she may be able to provide other options.

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