Introduction to Heart Disease

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  • Disorders & Issues
  • Heart Disease

Introduction To Heart Disease

Benjamin McDonald, MD

Your heart is one of your body’s most important organs. Essentially a pump, the heart is a muscle made up of four chambers separated by valves and divided into two halves. Each half contains one chamber called an atrium and one called a ventricle. The atria (plural for atrium) collect blood, and the ventricles contract to push blood out of the heart. The right half of the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood (blood that has a low amount of oxygen) to the lungs where blood cells can obtain more oxygen. Then, the newly oxygenated blood travels from the lungs into the left atrium and the left ventricle. The left ventricle pumps the newly oxygen-rich blood to the organs and tissues of the body. This oxygen provides your body with energy and is essential to keep your body healthy.

The general term used to cover malfunctions of the heart is Heart Disease, or sometimes Cardiac Disease (“Cardiac” is a Latin term for the heart). Though there are multiple forms of heart disease, our discussion focuses on the two most common: Heart Attack and Heart Failure. This document is designed to teach you about heart attacks and heart failure: what causes these diseases, what forms these diseases take, and what can be done to treat these diseases when they occur. As both of these diseases are to some extent avoidable, we have also provided a discussion of preventative steps you can take to decrease your chances of having to deal with heart disease, or to minimize the negative effects of existing heart disease.

Please note that though this information is as accurate as possible, it is no substitute for a qualified physician’s advice. Consult with your doctor before making changes to any treatment regimen you may be prescribed, and before beginning any program of exercise or other significant lifestyle change, especially if you have a known heart problem or are a middle-aged or older adult. There is no substitute for your doctor’s advice.

Although heart disease can occur in different forms, there is a common set of core risk factors that influence whether someone will ultimately be at risk for heart disease or not. We start our discussion of heart disease by describing these common risk factors, and then move on to cover specific conditions.

There are many factors that can increase your risk of getting heart disease. Some of these factors are out of your control, but many of them can be avoided by choosing to live a healthy lifestyle. Some of the risk factors you cannot control are:

  • Gender: Men have a greater risk than women for developing heart disease. Men also are at greater risk of having a heart attack at a younger age. Unfortunately, these facts often mislead women into believing that they are not at risk for heart disease. This is not true; heart disease is the number one killer of women (just like men). Women and men should both take steps to prevent heart disease.
  • Age: Simply put, the older you get, the greater risk you run for developing heart disease. It is estimated that four out of five individuals who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years of age or older. Further, at older ages women are much more likely to have a fatal heart attack than men.
  • Family History: A family history of heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), and diabetes increases the chance you will develop heart disease. People with biological relatives who have heart attacks at a young age (i.e., less than fifty-five years old) are considered to have a “strong” family history of heart disease and are at much higher individual risk.
  • A person’s family history of heart disease risk factors may also be affected by their ethnic background. For example, African Americans have a higher rate of hypertension. Since having uncontrolled high blood pressure increases an individual’s chance of developing heart disease, African Americans tend to have a higher risk of developing heart disease. While your family background is not a certain indication that you will get heart disease, it can greatly increase your chances.

Fortunately, there are many other risk factors for heart disease that can be addressed by lifestyle habits and regular preventative medical care. Some of the more controllable risk factors include:

  • Obesity: People who are overweight are more likely to have high blood pressure, which increases the heart’s overall workload. They also tend to have high cholesterol levels, which increases the chances of developing a blockage in blood flow to the heart. Furthermore, obesity increases a person’s chance of developing diabetes, another major risk factor for heart disease. Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are some of the best ways to control obesity and associated medical complications. Any complications caused by obesity should be evaluated and treated by your physician.
  • High Cholesterol: Cholesterol, a type of fat molecule, is an essential part of healthy cell membranes, and as such, is an essential part of a healthy body. Too much cholesterol in your blood, however, puts you at increased risk of heart disease. High levels of cholesterol and other fatty substances can cause Atherosclerosis, a disease in which fatty plaques build up on blood vessel walls, restrict blood flow to the heart and can ultimately cause a heart attack.
  • There are two different types of cholesterol: LDL (the so-called “bad cholesterol”) and HDL (the “good” cholesterol). High levels of LDLs increase your chance of having a heart attack. In contrast, the higher your HDLs, the more protection you have against heart attacks. Your cholesterol levels are determined by a combination of age, gender, heredity, dietary choices and exercise. LDL cholesterol can be decreased through exercise and dietary changes such as avoiding saturated and trans fats. The best way to raise your HDL cholesterol is through exercising.

    If your cholesterol levels cannot be kept at a safe level (the optimal number depends on your age, family history, and medical history such as whether you have diabetes or a history of heart attacks) with diet and exercise changes, then you and your physician can consider a prescription for cholesterol-lowering medications. People with a history of diabetes or heart attacks need to keep their LDL cholesterol lower than individuals who do not have that history.

  • Smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Among other health consequences, smoking causes people’s blood to clot more easily, and raises blood pressure, thereby putting their heart at risk. In terms of a heart disease prevention strategy, your best protection is to never start, or to quit smoking altogether if you already smoke.
  • High Blood Pressure: Uncontrolled blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease. The higher your blood pressure, the harder it is for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. Like any other stressed muscle, an overloaded heart responds to exertion by growing bigger; by thickening its walls and increasing it’s overall size. While these changes sound positive, they actually are harmful and are signs of heart disease. As the walls of the heart thicken, the heart chamber’s volume becomes greatly reduced and less blood can be pumped each time the heart beats. Also, the thickened muscle walls make it harder for the heart to pump out what blood it is able to collect. Exercise, a healthy diet and medication (if needed) can all help maintain a healthy blood pressure and therefore, a healthy heart.
  • Diabetes: As mentioned above, diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. A diabetic person’s risk of developing heart disease is equivalent to the risk of a person who has had a previous heart attack. Diabetes is a disease of blood sugar regulation. People with diabetes are at greater risk for heart disease if their blood sugar is not kept under good control. In addition, diabetics also need to control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In fact, the cholesterol goal for a diabetic is as low as the goal for a person who has had a previous heart attack.
  • Other Factors: Stress, drinking too much alcohol, and depression have all been linked to cardiovascular disease. Stress may cause some individuals to overeat, smoke, and/or drink excessively. Drinking can lead to higher blood pressure and obesity. While some studies have suggested that daily moderate alcohol intake (one drink a day) can reduce the risk of heart disease, there is a balance. Alcohol can be an addictive drug, and it is a source of ’empty’ (i.e., with limited nutritional value) calories. These extra calories can cause weight problems and diabetes, both of which are associated with heart risks of their own. Any decisions about alcohol consumption as it relates to your heart should be discussed with your doctor.
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Heart Attack Overview
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Basic Information


  • Introduction

  • Overview

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  • Life After A Heart Attack

  • Heart Failure Overview

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Latest News


  • New Guidelines Call for No Heart Tests for Low-Risk Patients

  • Some Older Heart Patients Might Benefit From Aggressive Treatments

  • Procedure May Beat Drug in Patients With Heart Failure, Irregular Heartbeat

  • Tackling Obesity May Ease a Dangerous Irregular Heartbeat

  • Experimental Drug Shows Promise in Lowering Cholesterol, Heart Attack Risk

  • Better Treatments Helping People With Enlarged Hearts Live Longer: Study

  • Manual Clot Removal After Heart Attack May Not Help, Could Harm

  • Newer Blood Thinner May Improve Outcomes for Heart Attack Survivors

  • CT Scans Might Spot Heart Risks More Clearly in Patients With Chest Pain

  • Smokers Fare Worse After Heart Procedures, Study Finds

  • Outcomes Vary With Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Replacement

  • Good Heart Health May Help Stave Off Dementia, Study Says

  • More Evidence That Hormone Therapy Might Not Help Women’s Hearts

  • New CPR Devices Approved

  • Women Take Longer to Reach Hospital After Heart Attack

  • Early Onset Hot Flashes May Point to Raised Heart Disease Risk

  • Easing Depression May Boost Heart Health, Study Finds

  • Veggie-Rich Diets May Mean Lower Heart Risks

  • Another Study Finds Mediterranean Diet May Cut Heart Risks

  • Common Drug for Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Worse Outcomes

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Stem Further Damage After Heart Attack

  • Love Coffee? Your Heart May, Too

  • Fried Foods Tied to Raised Heart Failure Risk

  • Do Heart Surgery Patients Get Too Many Blood Tests?

  • Heart Valve Repair Surgery May Ease Mental Health Symptoms, Too

  • Poor Response to Statins May Mean Clogged Arteries

  • Heart Failure Patients Who Struggle With Daily Tasks at Greatest Risk

  • Younger Women Often Ignore Signs of Heart Attack

  • Certain Painkillers Ill-Advised After Heart Attack: Study

  • Mental Illness, Homelessness Linked to Heart Disease in Study

  • Study Ties Saunas to Lower Risk of Death From Heart Disease

  • Light Activity a Boost to Seniors’ Hearts

  • Newer Blood Thinner Beats Heparin for Certain Heart Attacks

  • ‘Calculators’ Doctors Use May Overestimate Heart Risks, Study Says

  • Health Tip: Become a Heart-Healthy Chef

  • Low Vitamin D Levels in Childhood May Raise Heart Risks: Study

  • Effectiveness of Implanted Defibrillators May Depend on Patient’s Age

  • Stress May Make Recovery From Heart Attack Harder for Younger Women

  • Implanted Device May Improve Hard-to-Treat Chest Pain

  • A Pill a Day? No Way, Survey Says

  • Are Too Many Heart Failure Patients Getting IV Fluids?

  • Blood Transfusions During Heart Surgery May Up Pneumonia Risk

  • Prolonged High Cholesterol in Middle Age Raises Heart Risk Later: Study

  • Pneumonia Raises Heart Disease Risk for Years: Study

  • Scientists Spot Mutation Behind Genetic Form of Heart Failure

  • An Optimistic Outlook May Be Good for Your Heart

  • Happy Childhood May Be Good for Your Heart

  • FDA OKs New Anti-Clotting Drug for Heart Rhythm Disorder

  • High Blood Sugar in Heart Failure Patients May Point to Risk of Early Death

  • More Evidence That Healthy Living Works Wonders for Women’s Hearts

  • Health Tip: Coping With Heart Disease

  • When Heart Docs Are Away, Their High-Risk Patients May Fare Better

  • Excess Weight May Help Heart Failure Patients, Study Contends

  • Yoga May Cut Heart Disease Risk Factors

  • Doctors Aren’t Discussing Sex With Heart Attack Survivors

  • Timing of First Period Tied to Women’s Later Heart Risk: Study

  • Exercise, Diet May Be Key to Beating a Common Irregular Heartbeat

  • Obesity Can Cause ‘Silent’ Damage to Heart

  • Study Questions Safety of Adrenaline Shots for Cardiac Arrest

  • More Advanced Emergency Care May Be Worse for Cardiac Arrest Victims: Study

  • Treating Irregular Heartbeat With Digoxin May Come With Risks

  • Gel Implant Might Help Fight Heart Failure

  • A Bad Marriage Burdens an Aging Heart

  • Kids Born to Overweight Moms May Face Higher Heart Risks as Adults

  • 3-D Model of Heart May Help Surgeons Fix Defects

  • Home Exercise Boosts Heart Patients’ Frame of Mind

  • Kids Who Need Heart Transplant Should Get the First Available, Study Says

  • Women With Heart Disease at Low Risk When Giving Birth: Study

  • ‘Wireless’ Pacemaker Working Well So Far, Researchers Say

  • Coordination of Heart Attack Care Trims Time to Treatment: Study

  • Oxygen May Not Help Heart Attack Victims

  • Cocaine Can Cause Heart Problems: Study

  • Study Finds No Added Benefit From Routine Heart Scans for Diabetics

  • Early Heart Disease May Lead to Impotence, Study Says

  • Feeling ‘Worn Out’? Your Heart May Pay the Price

  • CPR Phone Guidance Boosts Cardiac Arrest Survival, Study Says

  • Asthma Raises Heart Attack Risk, Research Suggests

  • Heart Device May Cut Stroke Risk in Those With Irregular Heartbeat: Study

  • Cholesterol Drug Vytorin Linked to Reduced Heart Attack Risk

  • Secondhand Pot Smoke Can Give Your Heart an Unwelcome Buzz

  • Could Too Much Medication for Irregular Heartbeat Raise Dementia Risk?

  • Are Women More Likely to Survive Cardiac Arrest?

  • Researchers Find Gene Mutation That May Protect Against Heart Disease

  • Deaths From Heart Disease Drop Quickly After Stent Procedure: Study

  • Health Tip: Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women

  • Early Signs of Plaque in Arteries Signals Future Heart Trouble: Study

  • Irregular Heartbeat Doubles Risk for ‘Silent Strokes,’ Review Suggests

  • Are Your Heart Symptoms All in Your Head?

  • Prescribe Blood Thinner Pradaxa With Caution, Study Warns

  • Women Often Ignore Signs of Heart Trouble

  • Brief Interruption of Blood Supply to Limb Might Aid Heart Surgery: Study

  • Depression After Heart Attack May Be More Common for Women

  • Athletic Trainers’ Group Advises Heart Tests for Young Athletes

  • Another Study Links Mediterranean Diet to Better Heart Health

  • Stress Affects Women, Men With Heart Disease Differently, Study Shows

  • Sudden Cardiac Death a Risk for Women Living Near Major Roads: Study

  • Obese Kids May Show Early Signs of Heart Trouble

  • Heart Bypass Patients May Not Need Tight Blood Sugar Control: Study

  • Study Compares Tissue-Based or Mechanical Replacement Heart Valves

  • Genes May Make Some More Prone to Heart Disease When Under Stress

  • Social Support May Be Key to Heart Attack Recovery

  • Fish Oil Supplements Have Little Effect on Irregular Heartbeat: Study

  • Too Many Heart Scans May Pose Radiation Risks, Cardiologists Say

  • Study: Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors May Prevent 80 Percent of Heart Attacks

  • Scientists Spot How Bacterial Pneumonia Damages the Heart

  • Heart Attack Patients Face Greater Death Risk if Any Treatment Step Missed: Study

  • Diabetics Face Much Greater Risk of Heart Damage, Study Says

  • Skin Cells Used to Create Heart Valve for Growing Kids

  • Drug Gives ‘New Hope’ Against Heart Failure, Expert Says

  • Daily Exercise May Halve Risk for Heart Failure, Study Says

  • Diet, Exercise Counseling Urged for Overweight Americans With Heart Risks

  • Heart Studies Don’t Reflect Real-World Patients, Study Finds

  • Antibiotic Might Raise Heart Risks for Some

  • Study: Vigorous Exercise Seems Safe for Heart Transplant Recipients

  • Implantable Heart Devices Work, Regardless of Race: Study

  • Big Drop in U.S. Heart-Related Hospitalizations and Deaths, Study Finds

  • For Heart Attack Survivors, More Exercise Isn’t Always Better, Study Says

  • Heart Medication Digoxin Linked to Higher Risk of Death for Some

  • Women, Blacks Hit Harder by Heart Disease Risk Factors

  • Some Jobs Harder on the Heart Than Others, Report Finds

  • No TV or Obesity, But Ancient People Still Had Heart Disease

  • Heart Attack Patients Treated at Night, Weekends May Have Worse Outcomes

  • Inflammatory Muscle Disorder May Raise Risk for Heart Attack, Stroke

  • Early Hormone Therapy May Be Safe for Women’s Hearts

  • Pacemakers Common for Those With Dementia and Irregular Heartbeats

  • High-Salt Diets Could Double Risk of Heart Woes for Diabetics

  • Irregular Heart Rhythm Ups Stroke Risk Soon After Heart Surgery

  • Scientists Discover New Way to Make Human Platelets

  • No Change in Heart Attack Rates for Younger U.S. Adults

  • Childhood Sex Abuse May Be Linked to Heart Disease Risk in Women

  • Potassium Supplements May Help Some Heart Failure Patients

  • Even Moderate Drinking Might Raise Odds for Irregular Heartbeat

  • Don’t Judge a Pill by Its Color

  • A Little Alcohol May Not Be Good for Your Heart After All

  • ADHD Drugs May Up Risk of Heart Problems in Kids, Study Finds

  • Change Bad Habits Early, Save Your Heart Later

  • Latest Study Finds No Link Between Testosterone Supplements, Heart Attack

  • Heart Monitoring May Prevent Some Strokes, Study Suggests

  • Heart Failure Therapy May Benefit Women More Than Men

  • People With Heart Disease, Diabetes May Be More Likely to Stay on Statins

  • Quitting Smokeless Tobacco May Boost Survival After Heart Attack

  • Study Questions Use of Beta Blockers Before Heart Bypass Surgery

  • Breast Cancer Drug Herceptin Linked to Risk of Heart Problems: Study

  • Many With Heart Failure Aren’t Told About End-of-Life Care: Study

  • 1 in 10 Heart Attack Patients May Have Undiagnosed Diabetes

  • Take Heart: Mediterranean Diet Combats Type 2 Diabetes, Study Says

  • Implanted Defibrillators May Help Patients With Moderate Heart Failure

  • Some Breast Cancer Patients May Get Drug-Linked Heart Failure: Study

  • More Hispanics Took Heart Meds After Medicare Part D Launch

  • Heart Attack in Middle Age May Be Tougher on Women

  • Heart Risks Depend on Which Blood Pressure Number Is High: Study

  • Calcium Supplements Don’t Raise Women’s Heart Risks, Study Says

  • Remote Monitoring Device Approved for Heart Patients

  • Diabetics Fare Worse After Heart Surgery, Study Finds

  • Many Delay Blood Thinners After Stent Placement, Risking Death

  • Losing Weight at Any Age May Help the Heart

  • Mouse Study Hints at How Mediterranean Diet Protects the Heart

  • Sleeping Pill Use Tied to Poorer Survival for Heart Failure Patients

  • More Americans Hospitalized for Irregular Heartbeat, Study Finds

  • Early Menopause Linked to Heart Failure Risk in Swedish Study

  • Researchers Shed Light on Link Between Stress, Heart Trouble

  • Intensive Insulin Therapy Might Aid Diabetics After Heart Attack

  • Counseling Urged for Obese People at Higher Odds for Heart Disease: Experts

  • Solar Flares Might Actually Help Some Heart Patients

  • Weight-Loss Surgery May Help Prevent Heart Rhythm Disorder

  • Cheaper Copayments Boost Drug Follow-Up: Study

  • Home Visits May Help Heart Bypass Patients Fare Better

  • High-Fiber Diet May Aid Heart Attack Survivors

  • Ironclad Findings About Red Meat’s Harms?

  • Guidelines Aim to Detect More Congenital Heart Defects in Womb

  • Pot Smoking May Pose Heart Dangers, Study Suggests

  • Certain Prescription Painkillers Tied to Higher Risk of Irregular Heartbeat: Study

  • Heart Failure Drug Might Help Reduce Hospitalizations

  • Depression May Be Linked to Heart Failure

  • Diabetes Treatment Falls Short as Heart Failure Drug in Study

  • Space Travel Alters Shape of Human Heart, Study Reports

  • Raised Risk of Heart Trouble Seen in Celiac Disease Patients

  • Stem Cells May Rejuvenate Failing Hearts, Study Suggests

  • More Research Links Poor Heart Health With Alzheimer’s Risk

  • Preventive Steroids May Not Help Heart Bypass

  • Study Ties Daylight Saving Time Change to Rise in Heart Attacks

  • Doctors’ Groups Issue New Guidelines on Treating Common Irregular Heartbeat

  • Weight-Loss Surgery Cuts Risk for Heart Attack, Death: Study

  • Marriage Does Help the Heart, Study Finds

  • Smoke-Free Policies May Protect the Heart

  • Tragedies Do Cause Broken Hearts, Study Suggests

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  • Popular Blood Pressure Drugs Tied to Slight Rise in Cancer Risk

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  • Essay on Effects and Complications of a Heart Attack

Essay on Effects and Complications of a Heart Attack

940 Words
4 Pages

Show More

Heart Attack

A heart attack is damage to the heart due to decreasing blood supply (and the oxygen supply) to the part of the heart muscle. A heart attack affects cardiovascular system, this part of the system that shows these effects is the hear muscle. When a heart attack occurs a part of the heart muscle is no longer supplied with oxygen, the muscle in that area dies, cardiac arrest can then occur stopping the heart.

Various lifestyle choices can cause the disease, these include; being overweight due to bad eating habits, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking, high blood pressure and a less common cause is an aneurysm which is
A heart attack is caused by plaque in the coronary arteries being accumulated to the point where blood

…show more content…

In 2011 9,811 people died from a heart attack, on average that would be 27 heart attacks reported each day. The good news however is that from 2009 to 2011 the number of heart attack deaths have fallen by approximately 31%.

Men at the age of 45 that have 2 or more risk factors in their life have a 49.5% chance of having a cardiovascular disease by the age of 80, however men with no risk factors only had a 1.4%
Cardiovascular Death Trends chance of having a cardiovascular disease by the age of 80. Concerning women at the age of 45 with 2 or more risk factors their chances of having a cardiovascular disease by the age of 80 are lower than men at 30.7%. In the case of women with no risk factors included their chances of having a cardiovascular diseases is higher than men at 4.1%.

A study conducted in 2012 shows that more than 1 in 2 Australians that have had a heart attack continue to smoke. Out of these one in two, more than 40% didn’t even attempt to quit smoking.
In 2012 over 2 million Australians were informed by a doctor that they have a high risk of having a heart attack. Treatment can be offered post heart attack or even before the heart attack occurs when the risk is discovered.

Medicines:
Thrombolytic Medicines:

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    is among the top preventable risk factors of heart disease amongst many other health problems. Coronary heart disease and strokes are the primary types of cardiovascular disease caused by smoking. They rank as the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. More than 61 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease. Smoking increases your risk for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and aneurysms to name a few. More…

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    Words: 1399 – Pages: 6

  • The Attack of Facebook: the Negative Effects It Has on Its Users

    Mary C.
    WRD 104/Rozzell
    27 October 2010
    Research Paper
    The Attack of Facebook: the negative effects it has on its users
    In 2004 Mark Zuckerberg created a social network called Facebook that would affect the lives of millions. A social network is defined according to Danah M. Boyd, a PhD candidate in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley and author of Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship as a “web-based service that allows individuals to (1) construct…

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    Words: 1811 – Pages: 8

  • Determining the Effect of Arousal on the Heart Rate and Blood Pressure of Adolescent Males

    Determining the Effect of Arousal on the Heart Rate and Blood Pressure of Adolescent Males
    Wyatt Griffith and Michaela Rodriguez
    Wood River High School
    Hailey, ID 83333
    ABSTRACT
    When male adolescents were unknowingly placed in an isolated environment with an attractive woman, there wasn’t enough viable data to determine whether or not their blood pressure increased. Based on our limited and unreliable data there is no significant increase in the heart rate or blood pressure of male adolescents…

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    Words: 1010 – Pages: 5