Heart Disease: Understanding the Issues
Last week I discussed the basics of the heart and how it functions. Now lets delve a bit deeper into understanding the terms that surround issues related to heart disease.
Plumbing Vs. Electrical Problems
Other types of cardiac disease have nothing to do with obstruction of the coronaries but with the way the electrical system of the heart works. Sometimes the specialized cells that electrically stimulate the heart become dysfunctional, and you can develop an arrhythmia, where the heart beats either too slowly, too quickly, or out of sync. These conditions can be diagnosed with an electrocardiogram, and sometimes medications alone can help to regulate the rhythm.
Another common heart disease is heart failure. This occurs when the heart can no longer effectively pump all the blood that it receives. Heart failure affects about five million Americans, and it’s the leading cause of hospitalization of people older than 65. Many times, heart failure is due to prior damage caused by coronary artery disease, or by arrhythmias that have weakened the function of the heart. Ultimately, heart failure creates a backlog of pressure into the lungs, and people with heart failure tend to have difficulty breathing. Depending on the cause of the heart failure, different medications are available for treating it.
The valves of the heart are another source of heart disease. The valves can be damaged at birth or through infection. Abnormal or infected valves can interfere with normal blood flow and heart function and can lead to major cardiac disease. Surgery may be needed to replace the valves.
Sometimes the lining of the heart may be infected, a condition called pericarditis. If this membrane is inflamed, the heart may not beat properly. Valve abnormalities, arrhythmias, and heart failure all have a common symptom—shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath. If you have this problem, see a cardiologist to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.
The heart is a remarkable organ. It is the core of life, and its beat is central to your survival. Keeping it in prime working order is of paramount concern.