Risks Associated with Cardiac Diseases and Importance of Testing Early

Risks Associated with Cardiac Diseases and Importance of Testing Early

Posted by Katherine Clarke on Oct 2nd 2017

Now more than ever, cardiac diseases have sprung up as some of the leading causes of death in the world. Part of this may be attributed to the rising trend in technologies wherein user convenience is the goal. As a result, more people are living sedentary lives with little to nil physical activity, which aggravates the risk of cardiovascular issues and complications.

These days, it’s not surprising for a person to suffer from a stroke at a young age. After all, the kind of life that we have now seems to make it possible to develop these diseases that shorten the average human life expectancy.

According to a study in 2001, cardiovascular disease and stroke are among the top causes of death in the world. It may no longer be a surprise nowadays to learn that a co-worker suddenly develops such a condition. This is because too much stress accompanied with infrequent rest, increased tobacco use and alcoholism may dampen the health of a person.

About Cardiovascular Diseases

Heart or cardiac disease involves a range of conditions that affect the structures and functions of the heart. Such diseases include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias
  • Aorta disease and Marfan syndrome
  • Congenital heart disease (CHD)
  • Coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries)
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
  • Heart valve disease
  • Pericardial disease
  • Vascular disease (blood vessel disease)

Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Certain cardiovascular diseases can be prevented when the person adopts a healthy lifestyle.

Facts on Cardiovascular Diseases

Here are some interesting facts and figures on cardiac diseases:

  • Cardiovascular diseases can affect anyone. In fact, at least one member of any family and as close as first-degree relatives may have this condition.
  • In the U.S. alone, about 610,000 people die of cardiovascular diseases each year. The most common type of cardiovascular disease is coronary artery disease,which accounts for more than 300,000 deaths annually. Coronary artery disease is the narrowing of the coronary artery that supplies blood to the heart.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites have higher risks of developing this disease primarily due to their lifestyle. Meanwhile, the health condition is second only to stroke among American Indians or Alaska Natives, as well as Asians or Pacific Islanders.
  • At least 69.1% of males aged 60-79 years old have cardiovascular disease. This increases as the person gets older. About two-thirds of all coronary vascular disease death occurs in individuals aged 75 years old.
  • In 2011, cardiovascular disease is the top leading cause of death among women aged 65 years and older.
  • A very surprising discovery from a Danish study claims that people with thighs that measure less than 23.62 inches (60 cm) in circumference have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
  • Some medications can prevent a stroke caused by cardiovascular disease. However, in Seattle, roughly 16% of patients treated outside the confines of the hospital have survived the disease.
  • In another study, researchers suggest that women who stay up late or sleep less than eight hours are more prone to having heart disease.
  • Negative emotions and depression are risk factors for heart attack or stroke.
  • About 40% of individuals who succumb to a heart attack die even before they reach the hospital.
  • An enormous intake of food high in fat and cholesterol puts one at risk of having constricted blood vessels.
  • Hypertension can be asymptomatic but may damage not only the heart but the kidney and brain as well.
  • People with poor oral health are at high risk of developing atherosclerosis, since the bacteria in the gums and teeth can enter the bloodstream and affect blood clotting.
  • Almost 10% of the U.S. population has undiagnosed patent foramen ovale, which increases their risk for stroke.
  • The death rate associated with heart disease among African-American women is higher compared to Caucasian women.

Heart Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of heart diseases may depend on the type. Here are some of them, categorized by type of cardiovascular disease:

Atherosclerotic Disease

  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
  • Shortness of breath

Arrhythmias

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Lightheadedness
  • Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)

Congenital Heart Defects

  • Easily getting short of breath during exercise or activity
  • Easily tiring during exercise or activity
  • In an infant, shortness of breath during feedings, leading to poor weight gain
  • Pale gray or blue skin color (cyanosis)
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet
  • Swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

  • Breathlessness with exertion or at rest
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet

Heart Infections

  • A dry or a persistent cough
  • Changes in your heart rhythm
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rashes or unusual spots
  • Swelling in your legs or abdomen
  • Weakness or fatigue

Valvular Heart Disease

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen feet or ankles

Causes of Cardiovascular Disease

The probable causes for developing a cardiovascular disease depend on the type of heart disease. Here are some of them:

Atherosclerosis

This is caused by the formation of plaque around the blood vessels, making it difficult for the blood to flow normally. As a result, the blockage in the blood vessels would prevent the heart from receiving oxygenated blood.

Arrhythmias

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Drug abuse
  • Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine
  • Heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects)
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Some over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies
  • Stress
  • Valvular heart disease

Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects develop while the baby is still inside the womb. This may sometimes be brought about by certain medical conditions, genes, and medications. Adults may also develop heart defects as they grow older due to the changes in the heart structure.

Cardiomyopathy

This condition refers to the thickening of the heart muscle.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

This may be caused by the reduced blood flow to the heart following a heart attack or stroke.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

This is caused by the abnormal thickening of the heart muscles due to high blood pressure or age.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

This causes the heart to become rigid and less elastic, which may be due to excessive build-up of iron and protein or connective tissue disorders.

Heart Infection or Endocarditis

  • Bacteria
  • Parasites
  • Viruses

Valvular Heart Disease

  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Infections (infectious endocarditis)
  • Rheumatic fever

Risk Factors

The risk factors for developing a cardiovascular disease include:

  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Obesity
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Poor diet – High in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Poor Hygiene
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Smoking – Nicotine can cause constriction of the blood vessels which can result to atherosclerosis.
  • Stress

At times, we may feel under so much pressure that we end up getting stressed. If stress itself is a contributing factor in developing a cardiovascular disease, this may be brought about by a person’s way of dealing with stress. This may include eating more than the usual, as well as smoking frequently.

Complications

Cardiovascular disease may lead to other medical complications such as:

  • Aneurysm
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral Artery Disease
  • Stroke
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Diagnosis and Testing

Early detection is essential so that proper medical care can be given. Cardiovascular diseases can be diagnosed based on the patient’s medical and family history, a physical exam, risk factors, and the results from laboratory tests performed.

The good thing is that home test kits are available to detect the presence of fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins in your blood. Abnormal levels may be a sign that you're at risk for CHD.

It may be impossible to diagnose the disease by basing it solely on one test. Therefore, a combination of tests should be performed for better confirmation. These tests include:

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

It is a painless test that detects and records the heart's electrical activity. An EKG can show signs of heart damage due to CHD and signs of a previous or current heart attack.

Stress Testing

This requires the patient to submit to an exercise routine to make the heart work hard and beat fast. If exercising is not possible, medicines that help to increase the heart rate may be prescribed.

Performing a stress test can show possible signs and symptoms of CHD, such as:

  • Abnormal changes in your heart rate or blood pressure
  • Abnormal changes in your heart rhythm or your heart's electrical activity
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

Echocardiography

Also known as “echo”, echocardiography makes use of sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart. Performing this test determines the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves are working.

Chest X-Ray

This common diagnostic tool creates images of the organs and structures inside the chest, such as the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It can reveal signs of heart failure, lung disorders and other causes of symptoms that may not be related to coronary heart disease.

Coronary Angiography and Cardiac Catheterization

This type of test makes use of dye and a special x-ray to look inside the coronary arteries. This detects blockages in the large coronary arteries.

Treatment

Treatment for cardiovascular diseases includes lifestyle changes, medicines, medical and surgical procedures, and cardiac rehabilitation (rehab).

The goals in treating cardiovascular diseases include the following:

  • Lower the risk of blood clots forming (because blood clots may cause a heart attack)
  • Prevent CHD complications
  • Reduce risk factors in an effort to slow, stop, or reverse the build-up of plaque
  • Relieve symptoms
  • Widen or bypass plaque-clogged coronary (heart) arteries

Prevention is the key to having a good health. This can only be achieved if we become more physically active, be more careful in choosing the kind of food that we eat, and choose to have a positive perspective on life.