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Diseases Affecting The Heart – And Your Questions Answered
by admin | August 22, 2022 | Share | 2 comments

When we think of heart diseases, it’s common for most people to think only of heart attacks. This is probably because heart attacks are the direst consequences of heart disease and affect people when they least expect it.

What most of us don’t realize, though, is that heart attacks don’t just happen all of a sudden. Deep inside our bodies, there may have been a build-up of several stages of heart disease over a longer time – till things suddenly cross the threshold and cause the “unexpected” attack.

Many patients and their carers get taken aback when their doctors then tell them of the many causes of silent heart diseases and show them how they may have neglected their hearts all along, only to be taken by surprise by a sudden, severe, life-threatening cardiac malfunction.

Since knowledge is power, we dedicate this article to educating all our readers about the many ways our hearts can acquire and manifest heart disease. The sooner we become aware that we need to monitor our hearts regularly, the sooner we can take measures to prevent heart ailments from escalating into significant diseases.

FAQs on major ailments and conditions that can cause heart disease

One essential thing to know is that if you have a genetic predisposition to heart disease − or some serious ailments like obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, or hypertension – these factors seldom work alone on your heart. They combine to damage your heart with a multiplicative effect. That’s why we must begin by screening ourselves for our hearts by checking if we have any of these ailments singly or together.

1. How does genetics cause heart disease?

When a family passes its medical history and traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity. A lot of heart diseases can manifest as a result of genetic causes.

But even as genetics plays a part, CDC.gov states that families also share the same home environment and lifestyles. Their food habits may be common, and their attitude to healthy exercise may get passed on from one person to the other. When parents smoke and drink excessively or develop sedentary or stressful modes of living, children learn to follow these habits. Thus, they also develop similar mindsets and methods as their parents, and that may cause their latent genetic heart problems to manifest much earlier in life than expected.

This is one of the reasons why more and more younger people are showing early signs of heart disease.

2. How is obesity connected to heart disease?

A paper published by the National Library of Medicine explains how deeply, and in how many ways, obesity (or being overweight) can affect the heart.

They write: “Obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly heart failure (HF) and coronary heart disease (CHD). The mechanisms through which obesity increases CVD risk involve changes in body composition that can affect hemodynamics and alters heart structure.”

In other words, being overweight can affect not only your heart’s condition and health, but also its structure, and behavior. Your heart may cease to act as it should in a healthy body.

3. How does cholesterol affect the heart?

Cholesterol is often described as a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells. But there are two kinds of cholesterol. LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) is considered “bad cholesterol”, while HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) is considered “good cholesterol”.

Usually, the HDL or good cholesterol helps to wash away the bad LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream. But, if you allow yourself to have high LDL cholesterol levels you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. These can even harden as plaque and restrict or block the blood flow in your arteries. At times, those cholesterol deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.

High cholesterol can be an inherited issue, but often people exacerbate the problem by unhealthy eating or inactive lifestyles. According to Mayo Clinic, high cholesterol has no symptoms. So a blood test is the only way to detect if you have it. And that could be the only way to help your heart too.

4. Why is diabetes a serious issue for the heart?

 

When you have diabetes, you’re more at risk of heart disease. But what is the exact connection? According to Diabetes UK: “If you have high blood sugar levels for some time, even slightly high, your blood vessels can start to get damaged, which can lead to serious heart complications. This is because your body can’t use all of this sugar properly, so more of it sticks to your red blood cells and builds up in your blood. This build-up can block and damage the vessels carrying blood to and from your heart, starving the heart of oxygen and nutrients.”

Therefore, they recommend that you stay as close as possible to your target “HbA1c level”. This helps protect your blood vessels − and in turn, it also protects your heart.

HbA1c is also known as “glycated hemoglobin”. This is something that’s made when the glucose (sugar) in your body sticks to your red blood cells. Your body can’t use the sugar properly, so more and more of it attaches to your blood cells and builds up in your blood.

Even if you only have mildly raised blood sugar levels, if the conditions prolong over time, you put your heart at greater risk.

 

5. What does hypertension do to the heart?

People with high blood pressure over a long period become prone to developing “hypertensive heart disease”. This may manifest as heart failure, heart conduction arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), acute coronary syndrome (sudden, reduced blood flow to the heart), or sudden cardiac death.

The Cleveland Clinic emphasizes that chronic high blood pressure greatly strains your heart. It makes it harder for your heart to pump your blood. Your heart muscles may get thick and weak. Or, the walls of your blood vessels may thicken, causing an even higher level of danger when combined with cholesterol deposits inside blood vessels.

The bad news is that when hypertension combines with obesity, it can do even more damage to the heart. The good news is that people who manage their high blood pressure can significantly reduce their risk of heart failure with medications and a change to a healthier lifestyle.

 

5 manifestations of heart disease that could appear in your body

Whatever the causes, heart disease can occur in your body in various forms of expression.

 

1. Coronary artery disease (blocked arteries)

According to an article in the health library of Mount Sinai hospital, coronary heart disease is a condition often referred to as “atherosclerosis”. It can happen either due to hardening of the arteries (due to cholesterol plaque fixing to artery walls) or thinning or narrowing of arteries (with age). People with this kind of problem usually feel symptoms of “angina” (chest pain) or sometimes suffer from a stroke.

 

2. Heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)

 

 

Irregular heartbeats can feel alarming, especially if they occur suddenly without any warnings (as they usually do). According to WebMD you could have “tachycardia” (too fast heartbeats) or “bradycardia” (too slow heartbeats). A lot of arrhythmias are congenital. Talking to your doctor about your family medical history, and getting suitable medications, can help alleviate the issue.

 

3. Cardiomyopathy (diseased heart muscle)

According to Hopkins Medicine, cardiomyopathy (weakened or damaged heart muscles) may cause the heart to lose its ability to pump blood well. Heart muscles can degenerate due to viral infections, complex congenital defects, or certain types of cancer chemotherapy. The disease may go undetected unless symptoms like breathlessness or palpitations are visible or pronounced.

 

4. Endocarditis (infection of heart chambers and valves)

MedlinePlus writes, “Endocarditis is inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and heart valves (endocardium). It is caused by a bacterial or, occasionally, a fungal infection.” Germs are most likely to enter the bloodstream due to injection drug use (from unsterile needles), dental surgery, or other minor surgical procedures on the breathing tract, urinary tract, infected skin, etc.

 

5. Valvular heart disease (heart valve problems)

The heart has four valves — namely the aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid valves. These are supposed to open and close in tandem to direct blood flow through your heart and to various parts of your body. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) reasons for heart valve damage could be congenital conditions (being born with it), infections, or degenerative conditions (wearing out with age). Among many other symptoms, there may be marked shortness of breath and dizziness.

 

In summary …

We’ve looked at five ailments or conditions that can cause or worsen heart disease, and we’ve also gone through five ways heart disease could present itself in your body. Knowledge is half the cure.

The moral of the story in all these situations? Begin monitoring your heart early in life for congenital issues. Keep up a healthy diet and exercise regimen and stay off vices like smoking and drinking. Be proactive. Treat your heart responsibly when it’s well. Please don’t wait till it’s ill.

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