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Heart Health: 7 Types of Heart Disease & Symptoms

How much do you know about cardiovascular disease?


September 29 is international World Heart Day. Supported by the World Heart Federation, the day serves as a reminder that more than 17 million people die every year from heart disease, yet in many cases heart disease can be prevented.

Risk factors of heart disease

Some of the main risk factors of heart disease include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, stress and a sedentary lifestyle. Air pollution can also be a factor, as can family history and, of course, old age. Problems such as Chagas disease and cardiac amyloidosis can also lead to heart disease.

People often think of medicine as the fix for problems or injuries. We watch and wait, and when a health condition develops, we act. But this sit-and-wait approach to heart health is not good enough. In fact, it's in direct disagreement with the physicians' motto: First, do no harm. I take that to mean: also prevent harm.”

Here are seven different types of heart disease and their symptoms:

1. Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease is the result of a build-up of plaque in the major heart arteries. This build-up blocks blood flow to the heart, causing angina and shortness of breath, amongst other symptoms. If the arteries are severely blocked, the individual may suffer a heart attack.

The condition tends to develop over a lifetime and is only detected when the first symptoms appear. Angina is a sensation such as tightening of the chest muscles to the extent it can feel as if someone is sitting on the chest. Women may feel pain in the jaw, neck or back. 

2. Heart arrhythmia

Heart arrhythmia is a problem with the electrical impulses that coordinate a person’s heartbeats. The heart may be beating too fast, too slow or in an irregular fashion.

Signs of heart arrhythmia include feeling as if the heart is ‘racing’ or there is a fluttering sensation. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness, weakness, fainting, chest pain or discomfort. A normal, healthy heart has a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Tachycardia is when the heartbeat is greater than 100 beats a minute. Bradycardia is when the resting heart rate is less than 60 beats a minute.

3. Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should. This causes fluid build-up in the lungs and shortness of breath. It can be the result of coronary artery disease or high blood pressure.

In severe cases, a heart transplant or a ventricular assist device (VAD) is necessary. Symptoms of heart failure include swelling in the legs, ankles and feet, fatigue and weakness, a persistent cough, abdomen swelling, nausea and no appetite. 

4. Heart valve disease

Heart valve disease is when one or more of the four valves in the heart aren’t working correctly, disrupting blood flow. Symptoms can include a heart murmur, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the ankles and feet, fainting, dizziness and an irregular heartbeat.

Heart valve disease can be present from birth, or it can occur due to an infection. Other heart conditions can also trigger it.

5. Pericardial disease 

Also known as pericardial effusion, this is the build-up of excess fluid in the pericardium (a sac-like structure that sits around the heart). This occurs when the pericardium is diseased or injured, resulting in inflammation. Fluid can also build up around the heart as the result of chest trauma.

This fluid exerts pressure on the heart – too much of which can result in heart failure. 

6. Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is caused by a disease in the heart muscle. It then becomes difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body as a whole. It can result in heart failure.

There are three types of cardiomyopathy – dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Symptoms can include breathlessness, swelling of the legs, ankles and feet, difficulty sleeping when lying flat, fatigue, dizziness, fainting and chest pain. Treatment can be with medication, an implant, surgery or a transplant.

7. Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease is the term used for patients born with a problem in the heart’s structure, which can change how the blood flows around the heart. Congenital heart disease affects around 40,000 babies per year in the USA, over 4700 babies per year in the UK and over 500 babies per year in the UAE. The condition can be life-threatening and requires regular lifetime monitoring.

Importance of a heart screening

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the world. So, any symptoms should be taken seriously and evaluated by a qualified Cardiologist. Patients without symptoms are also being encouraged by Cardiologists worldwide to get screened for cardiovascular risk to prevent heart disease.

Stay tuned, as Medical Travel Market will soon be launching agency services so that you can find the best cardiologists and cardiac surgeons near you.

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