Your Heart

What Heart Disease Is

 

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America. It’s also an umbrella term for the following heart conditions:

Coronary Heart Diseases (CHD)

The most dangerous and most common is coronary heart disease (CHD), called a circulatory disorder because it involves the circulation system of arteries and other blood vessels. There are three major types of CHD, depending on where the plaque is found:

Coronary artery disease: plaque lines arteries that supply blood to the heart; it’s the number one cause of heart attacks.

Peripheral artery disease: plaque lines arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs.

Carotid artery disease: plaque lines arteries that supply blood to the brain.

A heart attack can happen when arteries become so clogged that the flow of blood to the heart is reduced or stopped; the resulting lack of oxygen damages or kills the heart muscle.

Arrhythmias

An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm caused by a problem with the heart’s electrical system, the system that regulates the heartbeat.

Depending on the type of arrhythmia, you can develop a heart rate that’s too slow or too fast, one that may stay out of whack or come and go. Some types are life-threatening, while others may be more bothersome than dangerous.

The most common is atrial fibrillation (afib). Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter can lead to the formation of blood clots in the heart. When dislodged, a blood clot can travel to the brain, block a vessel and cause a stroke. A stroke can severely deprive brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients causing brain cells to die.

Despite its name, not everyone with afib experiences symptoms until there’s a complication. A lack of energy is the most common symptom; a fast or irregular pulse, shortness of breath and heart palpitations are some of the others. Click on the The Heart Rhythm Society’s online risk assessment to help you know if your risk of afib is high.

Resources: American Heart Association and NHLBI