The heart though not bigger than your fist is the most powerful organ in the human body because it does the most physical work than any muscle; its main function is to pump oxygenated blood all through your body and it pumps blood to itself through the coronary arteries.
The heart beats 100,000 times daily; it sends 2,000 gallons of oxygenated blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body, this feeds every cell (75 trillion cells), tissue (only the cornea receives no blood supply) and organs with pure oxygenated blood. During an average lifetime of a man, the heart pumps about 1 million barrels of blood; this is enough to fill more than three super tankers.
Heart disease also known as cardiovascular disease is a medical condition that affects the blood vessels, the heart and its functions; it occurs when blood vessels carrying blood to the heart becomes inflamed, narrowed or blocked. This can lead to severe chest pain (Angina), heart failure, heart attack or stroke.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally; it is responsible for 17.9 million deaths in 2015 and this number is increasing every year. The incidence of heart disease is also increasing in the developing world.
Types of Heart Disease
There are various types of cardiovascular disease and they share similar symptoms; common types of heart disease are:
- Coronary heart disease: This type of heart disease affects the arteries that take blood to the heart; it is also known as atherosclerotic heart disease and it is the most common type of heart disease in the world.
- Valvular heart disease: This affects the functions of the valves and how they regulate the flow of blood in and out of the heart.
- Cardiomyopathy: This type affects how the heart muscles squeezes to release blood to the body.
- Arrhythmias: This affects the heart rhythm and the electrical conduction.
- Hypertensive heart disease: This is caused by high blood pressure which overburdens the heart, blood vessels and this leads to heart disease like cardiomegaly (that is enlarged heart).
- Heart infections: This type develops before birth and it is characterized by structural problems of the heart.
The coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, it affects the coronary arteries which supplies blood to the heart; the coronary arteries becomes narrowed or blocked when there is buildup of cholesterol plaque inside the walls of the arteries. This continuous build up will make the arteries to be narrowed or blocked completely.
When this happens, heart disease develops. There are many scientific explanations why cholesterol builds up in the blood vessels and the most profound one with evidences is intake of chlorine.
It is believed that chlorine scratch and tear inside the blood vessels, this then makes the body to send cholesterol to patch the broken blood vessels, continuous scratching leads to continuous mending and overtime the blood vessel is hardened, narrowed and if corrective measures are not taken, it will be completely blocked.
When the plaque ruptures and forms a clot in the artery, this causes a complete blockage and a heart attack can occur. The part of the heart that is denied of blood begins to die.
Risk factors for Heart Disease
Smoking and tobacco smoke, sedentary lifestyle, genetics, age, obesity, unhealthy foods, alcohol, air pollution, chemical risk factor, intake of chemicals like chlorine and high cholesterol (this is only a risk factors if you take in things that wounds the blood vessels; if not, in the absence of damage to the blood vessels, your body will not produce plenty cholesterol to rectify the damage).
It is estimated that 90% of heart disease is preventable by avoiding all the risk factors.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Chest pain (Angina)
Which is usually caused by blood clots, damaged or blocked blood vessels, tearing in the wall of the aorta, swelling of the sac around the heart, reduced blood flow to the heart; sometimes this pain may radiate to the arms, neck or back.
It is a classic sign of a heart attack; it can be severe at times like a tight feeling or pressure on the chest. Some heart attack patients describe it like an elephant sitting on their chest.
Heart disease weakens the heart that it can no longer pump blood effectively; this leads to excess stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system in an attempt to compensate the low supply of blood by the heart. This compensation causes increased sweating and nervousness.
Low supply of blood to the cells, tissues and organs is responsible for this; because the cells, tissues and organs depends on the blood for energy, oxygen and nutrients, and when they get blood in little amount, it leads to chronic fatigue.
Nausea and vomiting
No one knows clearly why heart disease patients vomit and have feelings of nausea but there is one major theory that explains this.
The pain from heart damage can make heart disease patients to vomit; that when heart muscles die during heart disease/heart attack, they release biochemicals into their surrounding environment.
These biochemicals can signal the hind brain to produce nausea; the hind brain when it receives this signal believes that something in the digestive tract needs to be expelled.
Heart disease affects the electrical system of the heart; when the electrical impulses that coordinate the heartbeat don’t function properly due to heart disease, it can lead to either fast, slow or irregular heartbeats.
Other things that can cause irregular heartbeat are blocked electrical signals, abnormal electrical signal pathways, irritable heart cells that sends out signals when they shouldn’t, some medications, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
Inadequate supply of blood to the heart and other cells and tissues can cause feelings of sickness and tiredness.
The chest pain can sometimes move to the upper part of the stomach (the upper abdomen); this symptom is more common in women than in men and it can cause one to feel sick to the stomach and vomit.
Shortness of breath
When the heart cannot effectively pump blood effectively, blood accumulates in the blood vessels and they can leak back into the lungs. This causes congestion; it can obstruct the airways leading to shortness of breath.
Cramps and pains
This is caused by poor circulation of blood to that part of the body; when blood supply is low, the body comes up with coping mechanisms by reducing the flow of blood to the hands and feet so that vital organs can have enough blood to function.
Heart disease caused by an infection usually comes along with fever, dry cough and skin rashes. You temperature rises as the immune system try to fight off the infection and kill the causal organisms.
Swollen ankles, feet and legs
When the heart can’t pump sufficient blood for the body; this cause blood to stay in the veins causing bloating and fluid retention. It is also a sign of heart failure because in this condition the kidneys can’t remove sodium and extra fluid (or water) from the body; this also leads to bloating and fluid retention in the legs, feet and ankles.
If from these signs and symptoms, you suspect or think you have a heart disease, do not hesitate in contacting a cardiologist. Early corrective measures can prevent fatalities or cases where nothing can be done again.
There are many tests that are done in hospitals and medical labs to ascertain whether one has heart disease or not; some of the tests are:
This test is used to see if heart is enlarged or if the lungs are congested with fluids.
Blood tests are used to diagnose heart disease by checking if the cholesterol is too high, the level of low and high density lipoprotein cholesterol, levels of triacylglycerides and CRP.
High sensitive C-reactive protein is a sign of heart disease when it is present in the blood; it is produced by the liver when the body wants to respond to an injury or inflammation. So the presence of CRP is a sign of inflammation somewhere in the body.
This test records the electric signals of your heart, the result will help the doctor to determine if you have irregular heart rhythms and structure.
This test can be carried out on you while at rest or while exercising; when it is carried out on you during exercise, it is called stress electrocardiogram.
This test involves an ultrasound of your chest to show detailed images of your heart’s structure and function; it is a non-invasive examination.
This test makes use of a portable device called a Holter monitor which is worn on the patient to detect the electrocardiogram of the patient’s heart continuously.
It is worn for 24 to 72 hours; this test is used to detect irregularities in heart rhythm that can’t be found when a regular electrocardiogram test is carried out.
This test involves raising the heartbeat with exercise or medicines and performing heart test and imaging at the same time to see the response of the heart. From the results, the doctor will know whether there is a problem or not.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging
For this test to be carried out the patient is placed on a table inside a long tube-like machine; this machine produces a magnetic field that produces pictures, these pictures will help the doctor in evaluating your heart.
Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan
During this scan, the patient is placed on a table inside a dough-nut shaped machine; an X-ray tube is present in this machine, this X-ray tube rotates around the whole body and collects images of the heart and chest.
In this test, a short tube (sheath) is inserted into the patient’s vein or artery in the legs or arms. A hollow, flexible and longer tube (guide catheter) is inserted in that first tube, with the help of X-ray images on a monitor, the doctor puts in the guide catheter through that artery until it reaches the heart.
With this test, the pressures in the heart chambers can be measured; a dye can be injected and it can be seen on an X-ray, this dye will help the doctor to see the flow of blood through your heart, blood vessels and valves. This test checks for abnormalities in the functions of the heart.
Treatment for heart disease involves prevention (which is the best), lifestyle changes, medications (depending on the type of heart disease), surgery and other medical procedures.
Lifestyle changes include healthy eating, regular exercise, active lifestyle, quit smoking and intake of alcohol, manage stress, maintain a healthy weight and practice good hygiene.
It is also advisable to keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control; regular medical checkup is also good to know the progress of the treatment.