Although it is arguably the most prevalent life style disease, the question what is heart disease continues to spur confusion among patients and lay persons alike. Essentially, heart disease or cardiopathy as it is sometimes referred to, is a term that is used to indicate conditions and ailments inflicting the heart. The heart can be affected by various kinds of diseases which come with their own symptoms and treatments. However in the advanced stages, most heart ailments are found to cause problems with the blood pumping function of the organ, which in turn is life threatening.
In order to understand what is heart disease we must consider the types of heart disease. The following are the most observed forms that it takes.
Coronary Heart Disease or Coronary Artery Disease
This mainly refers to the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries (medically termed as atherosclerosis) which supply blood and oxygen to the heart causing them to get blocked and narrow down and finally cutting off the supply. Once this occurs, symptoms such as angina (chest pain), breathlessness and a heart attack may manifest themselves. This form of heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.
When discussing what is heart disease, cardiomyopathy is an ailment that has to be considered. It is mainly a weakening of the heart muscle which increases the risk of an unexpected cardiac arrest. It is mainly found to be of two types: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Ischemic Heart Disease
In this manifestation of heart disease, the main characteristic is a diminishing supply of blood to the heart muscle. This outcome is most often linked to the aforementioned coronary artery disease. The risk factors associated with this type of heart disease are diabetes, high bad cholesterol levels, hypertension and smoking. The odds are also stacked against men and worsen with advancing age.
Heart failure is the term used to describe that condition wherein the heart is unable to meet the needs of the body, generally understood to be in terms of blood flow. It must be noted that heart failure is in fact different from a cardiac arrest. The most observed symptoms include breathlessness, swelling in the legs, inability to exercise. Ischemic heart disease and cardiomyopathy are known causes of heart failure.
Thus heart disease is not a single ailment. It has numerous forms and as mentioned earlier, one form of the disease could become the root cause for the onset of another. Thus answering the question what is heart disease is a complicated exercise. Treatment for the various forms of heart disease depends first and foremost on which type of ailment the patient is suffering from. The second aspect that must be taken into consideration is the stage of the disease. Thus the line of action that should be taken is different in different cases. As a general precaution, quitting smoking, controlling your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and exercising regularly can help keep the disease at bay.
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