Everything you need to know about heart disease

Heart disease refers to any condition affecting the cardiovascular system. There are several different types of heart disease, and they affect the heart and blood vessels in different ways.

The sections below look at some different types of heart disease in more detail.

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease, is the most common type of heart disease.

It develops when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become clogged with plaque. This causes them to harden and narrow. Plaque contains cholesterol and other substances.

As a result, the blood supply reduces, and the heart receives less oxygen and fewer nutrients. In time, the heart muscle weakens, and there is a risk of heart failure and arrhythmias.

When plaque builds up in the arteries, it is called atherosclerosis. Plaque in the arteries can rupture from blockages and cause blood flow to stop, which can lead to a heart attack.

Congenital heart defects

A person with a congenital heart defect is born with a heart problem. There are many types of congenital heart defects, including:

  • Atypical heart valves: Valves may not open properly, or they may leak blood.
  • Septal defects: There is a hole in the wall between either the lower chambers or the upper chambers of the heart.
  • Atresia: One of the heart valves is missing.

Congenital heart disease can involve major structural issues, such as the absence of a ventricle or problems with unusual connections between the main arteries that leave the heart.

Many congenital heart defects do not cause any noticeable symptoms and only become apparent during a routine medical check.

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According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart murmurs often affect children, but only some are due to a defect.


Arrhythmia refers to an irregular heartbeat. It occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate the heartbeat do not work correctly. As a result, the heart may beat too quickly, too slowly, or erratically.

There are various types of arrhythmias, including:

  • Tachycardia: This refers to a rapid heartbeat.
  • Bradycardia: This refers to a slow heartbeat.
  • Premature contractions: This refers to an early heartbeat.
  • Atrial fibrillation: This is a type of irregular heartbeat.

A person may notice a feeling like a fluttering or a racing heart.

In some cases, arrhythmias can be life threatening or have severe complications.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart chambers become dilated, meaning that the heart muscle stretches and becomes thinner. The most common causes of dilated cardiomyopathy are past heart attacks, arrhythmias, and toxins, but genetics can also play a role.

As a result, the heart becomes weaker and cannot pump blood properly. It can result in arrhythmia, blood clots in the heart, and heart failure.

It usually affects people aged 20-60 years, according to the AHA.

Myocardial infarction

Also known as heart attack, myocardial infarction involves an interruption of the blood flow to the heart. This can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.

The most common cause of heart attack is plaque, a blood clot, or both in a coronary artery. It can also occur if an artery suddenly narrows or spasms.

Are there different types of heart attack? Learn more here.

Heart failure

When a person has heart failure, their heart is still working but not as well as it should be. Congestive heart failure is a type of heart failure that can occur from problems with the pumping or relaxing function.

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Heart failure can result from untreated coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and other conditions. These conditions can affect the heart’s ability to pump or relax properly.

Heart failure can be life threatening, but seeking early treatment for heart-related conditions can help prevent complications.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

This condition usually develops when a genetic problem affects the heart muscle. It tends to be an inherited condition.

The walls of the muscle thicken, and contractions become harder. This affects the heart’s ability to take in and pump out blood. In some cases, an obstruction can occur.

There may be no symptoms, and many people do not receive a diagnosis. However, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can worsen over time and lead to various heart problems.

Anyone with a family history of this condition should ask for screening, as receiving treatment can help prevent complications.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the main cause of cardiac death among young people and athletes under 35 years old, according to the AHA.

Mitral valve regurgitation

This event occurs when the mitral valve in the heart does not close tightly enough and allows blood to flow back into the heart.

As a result, blood cannot move through the heart or body efficiently, and it can put pressure on the chambers of the heart. In time, the heart can become enlarged, and heart failure can result.

Learn more about heart valves here.

Mitral valve prolapse

This happens when the valve flaps of the mitral valve do not close properly. Instead, they bulge into the left atrium. This can cause a heart murmur.

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Mitral valve prolapse is not usually life threatening, but some people may need to receive treatment for it.

Genetic factors and connective tissue problems can cause this condition, which affects around 2% of the population.

Aortic stenosis

In aortic stenosis, the pulmonary valve is thick or fused and does not open correctly. This makes it hard for the heart to pump blood from the left ventricle into the aorta.

A person may be born with it due to congenital anomalies of the valve, or it may develop over time due to calcium deposits or scarring.

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Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237191

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