Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Every year, about 610,000 people die from heart disease; that’s 1 in every four deaths. And that number is only going to increase as the population gets older. The good news is that there are many ways to prevent heart disease and protect your heart health. Here are some of the most common heart problems and how to deal with them.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHC)
CHF is a chronic progressive condition that affects the pumping power of your heart muscle. CHF can be caused by a variety of conditions, including CAD, hypertension, and heart valve problems. All of these conditions cause heart failure causing the heart to work harder than normal, which can lead to heart muscle damage and weakening. The weakened heart muscle then can’t pump blood efficiently, causing a backup of blood and fluid in the lungs and other organs.
Symptoms of CHF can include shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid buildup (edema) in the ankles, legs, and abdomen. These symptoms usually develop gradually and get worse over time.
If you have CHF, your doctor will likely prescribe medications to help your heart pump more efficiently and reduce the amount of fluid in your body. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged heart valves or implant a device that helps the heart pump blood. You should also monitor your weight, watch for signs of fluid retention, and avoid salt.
Coronary Artery Disease
The most common type is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle become narrowed or blocked due to plaque buildup. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances found in the blood.
Symptoms of CAD can include chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, and abnormal heart rhythms. If not treated, CAD can lead to a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when one or more plaques in your coronary arteries rupture, causing a blood clot to form. This blockage prevents blood flow to your heart muscle and damages it. Heart attacks can be fatal, but with proper treatment, many people survive and live healthy lives.
The best way to prevent CAD is to live a healthy lifestyle and manage any conditions that may increase your risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you have CAD, you’ll be treated with medications, such as aspirin, beta-blockers, and statins. You may also need coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery.
Aortic stenosis (AS) is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening. The aortic valve is the valve that allows blood to flow from your heart into your aorta-the large blood vessel that carries blood to the rest of your body. AS can be caused by a buildup of calcium on the valve, or it can be present at birth (congenital).
You’ll know you have AS if you have difficulty walking short distances, swollen ankles or feet, difficulty sleeping, or shortness of breath. AS can lead to heart attack, but with proper treatment, you can live a long and healthy life.
Treatment for AS depends on the severity of the condition. For mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. Treatment options include valve replacement surgery or valve repair surgery for more severe cases. While these procedures may seem daunting, they are often very successful in relieving symptoms and improving quality of life.
Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a condition in which the mitral valve-the valve that separates the left atrium and left ventricle of your heart-doesn’t close properly. This allows blood to leak back into the left atrium. MVP can be caused by various conditions, including connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome, and is often present at birth (congenital).
Signs that you have MVP can include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, anxiety, and fatigue. In most cases, MVP is a benign condition and doesn’t require treatment. However, if you have severe MVP, you may be at risk of developing an endocarditis-an infection of the heart valves. Endocarditis can be fatal if not treated.
The best way to prevent MVP is to live a healthy lifestyle and manage any conditions that may increase your risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you have MVP, you’ll be treated with medications, such as beta-blockers, to control your symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the valve.
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm. AFib is the most common type of arrhythmia, and it occurs when the electrical impulses that control your heart’s rhythm are out of sync. This causes your heart to beat irregularly-too fast, too slow, or even stop temporarily.
Symptoms of AFib can include sensations of a fast, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat, lightheadedness, reduced ability to exercise, and fatigue. If not treated, AFib can lead to stroke or other complications.
To treat AFib, your doctor may prescribe medications, such as blood thinners. You may also need to have a procedure called cardioversion, which uses electrical shocks to restore your heart’s normal rhythm. In some cases, surgery can be used to repair or replace the damaged heart tissue that is causing AFib. Devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators, can be used to manage arrhythmias.
Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular heart disease (VHD) is a condition that affects the valves of your heart. The valves control blood flow through your heart, and VHD can occur when one or more valves don’t open or close properly. This can cause blood to leak back into the heart chambers, or it can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood.
Symptoms of VHD can include dyspnea, rapid weight gain, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. If not treated, VHD can lead to stroke or other complications that can be fatal.
Treatment for VHD depends on the severity of the condition. For mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. For more severe cases, treatment options include valve replacement surgery or valve repair surgery. While these procedures may seem daunting, they are often very successful in relieving symptoms and improving quality of life.
Heart disease is a serious condition that can lead to heart failure, stroke, and death. However, heart disease is often preventable by living a healthy lifestyle and managing any conditions that may increase your risk. If you have heart disease, it’s important to seek treatment to improve your quality of life and reduce your risk of complications. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to living a long and healthy life with heart disease.