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Cardiovascular System Diseases

Cardiovascular System Diseases

Cardiovascular system diseases are conditions that affect the heart and the blood vessels, which are the main components of this system. This HealthHearty write-up will give you a basic idea about cardiovascular diseases and disorders, and their symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2018
The human cardiovascular system is composed of a heart, blood, and a network of blood vessels. It is concerned with the circulation of nutrients, gases, and hormones throughout the body. Any disease that affects the heart and the blood vessels, irrespective of the organ involved, falls under the category of cardiovascular diseases. So, cardiovascular system diseases also include vascular diseases of the brain and the kidneys.
A series of physiological and morphological changes occur with advancing age, which in turn, alters the way in which the cardiovascular system works. This eventually raises the risk for cardiovascular system diseases. Wrong eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle are the two most important risk factors for heart and cardiovascular diseases, along with aging. The cardiovascular mortality rates have somewhat declined in many developed countries since 1970s, but increased in low- and middle-income countries of the world.
Cardiovascular System Diseases
Cardiovascular System
The Cardiovascular System
The Human Heart
The Human Heart
Coronary Artery Disease
Also known as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease, this condition is considered as the most common cause of heart attacks. It is also a common cause of heart disease. Coronary heart disease is caused by the buildup of plaques inside the coronary artery. As a result, the coronary artery becomes narrow, which inhibits the supply of sufficient oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This cardiovascular disease can be asymptomatic for several years till the first symptom, which is often a sudden heart attack, occurs.
Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Smoking
✧ High blood pressure
✧ Diabetes
✧ Obesity
✧ A family history
✧ Stress
✧ A sedentary lifestyle
✧ Excessive consumption of alcohol
✧ Hyperlipidemia
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Angina or chest pain on exertion
✧ Decreased exercise tolerance
✧ Shortness of breath
✧ Nausea and vomiting
✧ A choking feeling
✧ Extreme weakness and lightheadedness
✧ Pain and discomfort in the upper body, especially in the arms, shoulders, neck, and the jaw.
Treatment Options
✧ Drug therapy with ACE inhibitors, cholesterol-lowering medications, nitroglycerin, and calcium antagonist
✧ Angioplasty and coronary stent
✧ Coronary artery bypass grafting
Cardiomyopathy
The literal meaning of cardiomyopathy is disease of the cardiac or heart muscles. True to its name, this condition is characterized by the weakening of the heart muscles, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. This condition can eventually lead to heart failure. Cardiomyopathy can be extrinsic (caused by an external factor or condition) and intrinsic (not due to an external cause).
Possible Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Hypertension
✧ Heart tissue damage caused by a heart attack
✧ Diabetes and thyroid disease
✧ Obesity
✧ Alcoholism and illicit drug use (cocaine, amphetamines, and anabolic steroids)
✧ Hemochromatosis
✧ Nutritional deficiencies
✧ Cancer treatments
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Shortness of breath at rest or with exertion
✧ Chest pain
✧ Peripheral edema that causes swelling of the legs, ankles, and the feet
✧ Irregular heartbeat
✧ Dizziness or fainting
Treatment options
✧ Drug therapy with ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers, digoxin, and diuretics
✧ Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
✧ Septal myectomy
✧ Septal ablation
✧ Pacemaker implantation
✧ Heart transplant
✧ Ventricular assist devices
Hypertensive Heart Disease
Hypertensive heart disease is the term used for the diseases or complications associated with systemic arterial high blood pressure or hypertension. In other words, these conditions are caused by the high level of pressure exerted by the circulating blood on the arterial wall. High blood pressure makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood effectively. As a result, the heart muscles thicken, which changes the way this vital organ works.
Risk Factors
✧ A sedentary lifestyle
✧ Smoking
✧ A diet rich in unhealthy fats and cholesterol
✧ A family history of hypertension
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Chest pain
✧ A feeling of tightness in the chest
✧ Shortness of breath
✧ Pain in the neck, back, arms, and the shoulder
✧ Rapid or irregular heartbeat
✧ Swelling of the foot and the ankle
Treatment Options
✧ Effective control of high blood pressure with medications, and dietary and lifestyle changes
✧ Regular aerobic exercise
✧ Moderation in alcohol consumption
✧ Smoking cessation
Heart Failure
Also termed as congestive heart failure or congestive cardiac failure, this cardiovascular disease is caused by a failure of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the requirement of the body. This condition can affect one or both sides of the heart. Fluid buildup in the liver, lungs, and the arms and legs, is a very common complication associated with heart failure. This is the reason why this condition is also known as congestive heart failure, which means that the cardiac output is low and the body is congested due to the accumulation of fluid.
Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Heart attacks (myocardial infarction)
✧ Coronary artery disease
✧ Cardiomyopathy
✧ Valvular heart disease
✧ High blood pressure
✧ Arrhythmias
✧ Congenital heart disease
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Breathlessness or difficult breathing
✧ Edema or fluid retention which often causes leg swelling
✧ Exercise intolerance
✧ Distended neck veins
✧ Uneven heartbeat
✧ Abnormal heart sounds or heart murmur
✧ Crackles or sounds heard in the lungs (due to pulmonary edema)
✧ Cyanosis
✧ Wheezing
Treatment Options
✧ Drug therapy with nitroglycerin, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, and aldosterone receptor antagonists.
✧ Automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
✧ Coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty
✧ Pacemaker implantation
✧ Heart transplantation
Cor Pulmonale
Cor pulmonale is also known as pulmonary heart disease, as it is caused by pulmonary hypertension. When the level of blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs is very high, the right side of the heart finds it difficult to pump blood to the lungs. If this continues, the right side of the heart ultimately fails to pump sufficient blood to the lungs leading to cor pulmonale.
Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Pulmonary embolism
✧ Acute respiratory distress syndrome
✧ Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
✧ Cystic fibrosis
✧ Interstitial lung disease
✧ Sarcoidosis
✧ Severe thoracic kyphoscoliosis
✧ Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (in infants)
✧ Sickle cell anemia
✧ Obstructive sleep apnea
✧ Smoking
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Shortness of breath on exertion
✧ Lightheadedness on exertion
✧ Wheezing
✧ Chest pain
✧ Chronic wet cough
✧ Ascites
✧ Swelling of the feet and ankles
✧ Cyanosis
✧ Abnormal heart sounds
✧ Liver enlargement
✧ Prominent neck and facial veins
Treatment Options
✧ Oxygen therapy
✧ Drug therapy with anticoagulants, diuretics, nitrates, bronchodilators, prostacyclin derivatives, mucolytic agents, and phosphodiesterase inhibitors
✧ Thrombolysis
✧ Phlebotomy
✧ Smoking cessation and avoidance of dust, smoke, flames, and cold weather
Cardiac Dysrhythmias
Cardiac dysrhythmias refer to irregular heartbeat. This condition is characterized by the irregular electrical activity of the heart. As a result, the heartbeat can be too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). Arrhythmias can occur in the atria or the ventricles, and they are usually not life-threatening conditions. Rarely, some arrhythmias can lead to cardiac arrest, which can be a life-threatening condition.
Causes
✧ Coronary artery disease
✧ Injury from a heart attack
✧ Heart surgery
✧ Changes in heart muscles
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Palpitations
✧ Lightheadedness or dizziness
✧ Fainting spells
✧ Shortness of breath
✧ Chest discomfort
✧ Weakness or tiredness
Treatment Options
✧ Drug therapy with anticoagulants and antiarrhythmic medications
✧ Smoking cessation
✧ Physical maneuvers
✧ Electrical conversion
✧ Electrical cautery
Inflammatory Heart Disease
Inflammatory heart disease can be of three types―endocarditis, inflammatory cardiomegaly, and myocarditis. As the name suggests, endocarditis refers to the inflammation of the endocardium, the inner layer of the heart, while cardiomegaly is the condition where the heart becomes enlarged. Myocarditis on the other hand, is characterized by the inflammation of the myocardium, the muscle tissues that form the middle layer of the heart.
Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Rheumatic fever
✧ Lupus erythematosus
✧ Bacterial infections (caused by Chlamydia, mycoplasma, Streptococcal bacteria, Staphylococcal bacteria, Borrelia, and Treponema)
✧ Some dental procedures
✧ Artificial heart valves
✧ Congenital heart defect
✧ Viral infections (caused by Coxsackie B viruses, Epstein-Barr virus, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes, Hepatitis C, and HIV)
✧ Metabolic disorders
✧ Hemochromatosis
✧ Cocaine or alcohol abuse
✧ Hypertensive heart disease
✧ Coronary artery disease
✧ Allergic reactions to medications or toxins
✧ Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Chest pain
✧ Arrhythmia
✧ Shortness of breath at rest or on exertion
✧ Fluid retention in the legs, ankles, and feet
✧ Unusual fatigue
✧ Rapid breathing
✧ Dizziness and fainting
✧ Bluish or grayish discoloration of the skin (in children)
✧ Abdominal bloating due to fluid buildup
✧ Fever and chills
✧ Joint and muscle pain
✧ Petechiae
Treatment Options
✧ Drug therapy with ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, diuretics, digoxin, and antibiotics (if a bacterial infection is the underlying cause)
✧ Ventricular assist devices
✧ Septal myectomy and septal ablation
✧ Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
✧ Intra-aortic balloon pump
✧ Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
✧ Surgery
✧ Pacemaker implantation
✧ Heart implantation
Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular heart disease can affect one or more of the four heart valves―the aortic and mitral valves of the left heart, and the pulmonary and tricuspid valves of the right heart. Valvular heart disease can be congenital or acquired. The four heart valves are responsible for maintaining the flow of blood in the forward direction and prevent any kind of leakage. Valvular heart disease can be caused by the leakage of blood or regurgitation (caused by the failure of the valves to close properly), and narrowing of the valve opening, which is termed as stenosis.
Causes
✧ Inflammation of the heart tissues
✧ Birth defects
✧ Rheumatic fever
✧ Heart attacks
✧ Calcium deposits
✧ Coronary artery disease
✧ Hypertension
✧ Cardiomyopathy
✧ Aortic aneurysm
✧ Atherosclerosis
✧ Lupus
✧ Syphilis
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Shortness of breath
✧ A feeling of pressure in the chest
✧ Palpitations
✧ Weakness
✧ Dizziness
✧ Rapid weight gain
✧ Swelling in the legs, feet, and the abdomen
Treatment Options
✧ Drug therapy with diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, vasodilators, antiarrhythmic medications, and anticoagulants
✧ Heart valve repair
✧ Insertion of artificial heart valves
Cerebrovascular disease
Cerebrovascular disease includes several conditions that can affect the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. So, cerebrovascular disease can impair blood circulation to the brain, which can result in a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) or stroke.
Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Hypertension
✧ Diabetes mellitus
✧ Intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage
✧ Embolism
✧ Aneurysms
✧ Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
✧ Use of illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, and the leg, especially on one side of the body
✧ Blurred vision and slurred speech
✧ Loss of balance or coordination
✧ Nausea and vomiting
✧ Dizziness
✧ A severe headache
Treatment Options
✧ Drug therapy with aspirin and tissue plasminogen activator
✧ Mechanical clot removal
✧ Carotid endarterectomy
✧ Angioplasty and stents
✧ Surgical blood vessel repair
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) or peripheral vascular disease is the condition where the flow of blood through the peripheral arteries gets obstructed. This is usually caused by the narrowing of these arteries. Arteries of the pelvis and the legs are more commonly affected by this condition. PAD can be a sign of widespread atherosclerosis, where fatty deposits accumulate inside the arterial wall.
Causes and Risk Factors
✧ Atherosclerosis
✧ Inflammation of the blood vessels
✧ Diabetes mellitus
✧ Hypertension
✧ High level of LDL cholesterol and low level of HDL cholesterol
✧ Tobacco smoking
✧ Obesity
✧ High level of homocysteine
✧ A family history of PAD
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Pain or cramping in the legs, hips, or arms while doing an activity, which usually resolves with rest (intermittent claudication)
✧ Leg numbness or weakness
✧ Sores, ulcers, or wounds on the lower extremity of the body that heal slowly
✧ Coldness in the leg or foot
✧ A change in color of the legs
✧ Slower nail and hair growth on the affected leg
✧ Erectile dysfunction in men
Treatment Options
✧ Medications for managing diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, and medications that can prevent the formation of blood clots inside the arteries
✧ Angioplasty
✧ Bypass surgery or grafting
✧ Plaque excision
✧ Thrombolytic therapy
✧ Exercise or physical activity
✧ Smoking cessation
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart defect or disease is one of the most common birth defects. It refers to any defect in the structure of the heart, or the large blood vessels that bring blood to and from the heart. The symptoms of this condition can be evident in childhood at times, but it is also possible for the affected child to not exhibit any signs or symptoms until adulthood. Some heart defects can be minor and may not require any treatment, while others can necessitate surgery or the use of certain medications. What causes congenital heart defect is not known with certainty, but certain factors have been believed to increase the risk for this disease.
Risk Factors
✧ Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities of the child
✧ Alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy
✧ A family history of congenital heart defect
✧ Viral infections like rubella during pregnancy
✧ Diabetes mellitus
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Shortness of breath during feeding
✧ Rapid breathing
✧ Cyanosis
✧ Syncope
✧ Heart murmur
✧ Underdeveloped limbs and muscles
✧ Respiratory infections
Treatment Options
✧ Repair the defect using catheters
✧ Open heart surgery
✧ Heart transplantation
Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic heart disease is caused by rheumatic fever, which is a complication associated with untreated or inadequately treated A streptococcal (strep) infection, or scarlet fever. It is basically caused by an autoimmune reaction to the infection caused by A streptococcal bacteria. The incidence of rheumatic fever has been observed to be more in children between 5 to 15 years of age. This disease has also been observed to be more prevalent in developing and underdeveloped countries. Rheumatic fever can cause fibrosis of the heart valves, which in turn can cause valvular heart disease, and heart failure.
Signs and Symptoms
✧ Shortness of breath on exertion or while lying down
✧ Chest pain
✧ Joint pain and inflammation
✧ Heart murmur
Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever
✧ Fever
✧ Tender joints
✧ Joint pain that migrates from one joint to another
✧ Red and hot, swollen joints
✧ Chest pain
✧ Nodules over swollen joints
✧ Red, flat or slightly raised rash on the chest, back, or the abdomen
✧ Fatigue and weight loss
Treatment Options
✧ Prevention of rheumatic fever with appropriate antibiotics
✧ Administration of aspirin, steroids, and non-steroidal medications to reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatic heart disease
✧ Surgery to repair or replace the damaged heart valves.
Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
Cardiovascular disease prevention
Tobacco smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol abuse, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, and excessive consumption of unhealthy fats, are the common risk factors for a large number of cardiovascular diseases, including strokes and heart attacks. So, it is possible to cut down the risk for such diseases to a great extent by controlling these risk factors.
To sum up, certain risk factors for cardiovascular diseases can be managed with a few simple changes in your lifestyle and dietary habits. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can boost the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system, and reduce the incidence of life-threatening complications.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.
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