Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease (CVD), refers to a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. It is a leading cause of death worldwide and encompasses various disorders, including:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): The most common type of heart disease, CAD occurs when the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients (coronary arteries) become narrowed or blocked due to the buildup of plaque. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
- Hypertension (High blood pressure): It occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is consistently too high. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels and organs, including the heart.
- Heart failure: This condition arises when the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently becomes impaired. It doesn’t mean the heart stops working, but rather, it is unable to meet the body’s demands for blood and oxygen.
- Arrhythmias: These are abnormal heart rhythms that can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Some arrhythmias are harmless, while others can be life-threatening.
- Valvular heart disease: This involves problems with the heart valves, which regulate blood flow through the heart chambers. Valvular issues can lead to inefficient blood flow and strain on the heart.
- Congenital heart defects: Some individuals are born with structural heart abnormalities that can affect the heart’s function. These defects may range from minor issues to severe conditions that require immediate medical attention.
Risk factors for heart disease include unhealthy lifestyle choices (e.g., poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking), hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, family history of heart disease, age, and gender (men are generally at higher risk until menopause equalizes the risk for women).
Preventive measures to reduce the risk of heart disease include adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as regular physical activity, a balanced diet, avoiding smoking, managing stress, and controlling medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Regular medical checkups are also crucial to monitor and manage risk factors.