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Heart Disease by Maggie Brown

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Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.  Various diseases can be classified under heart disease such as arrhythmias, heart infections, diseases of the blood vessels, and coronary artery disease. The term ‘cardiovascular disease’ often refers to conditions in which the blood vessels in and around the heart are narrowed or blocked. The heart is one of the most vital organs in the body; so it must continue the cycle of pumping oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout the body.

Arteries. They are the blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to your body away from the heart. Healthy, they are supposed to be flexible and strong but poor diet and exercise can cause them to become clogged up and weak. Atherosclerosis is a condition where there is a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. The buildup of plaque then narrows the arteries; you can think of it like the hole in a doughnut, as the dough gets thicker the hole (artery) in the middle gets smaller.  Narrowed arteries increase blood pressure which in turn causes the walls to become thick and stiff, also known as Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease.

The heart must beat continuously; disruption of the heartbeat would cause blood to flow unevenly or in the wrong direction. Arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm or heartbeat. Sometimes they can be due to congenital heart defects but many other causes and or conditions that can lead to arrhythmias can be prevented by healthy life choices. Smoking, excessive use of alcohol or caffeine, drug abuse, diabetes, stress, and even some medications and herbal remedies can cause serious problems.  Healthy hearts on the other hand are unlikely to have fatal arrhythmias develop unless triggered by something like an electrical shock or illegal drug use.  Valvular heart disease may also have the potential to create arrhythmias. The four valves of the heart ensure blood flows in the correct direction. Valvular heart disease can be congenital or caused by damage to the valve.

Heart defects and heart infections are two more under the umbrella of heart disease.  Whereas heart defects develop in the womb or with old age, heart infections are caused by various bacteria, chemicals, or virus that reach the heart muscle. Endocarditis happens when bacteria enter the bloodstream, simple oral hygiene can help prevent this as it can enter the bloodstream simply by eating or brushing your teeth. Viruses such as influenza, fifth disease (rash), gastrointestinal infections, Epstein-Barr virus, and measles are also potential dangers for heart infections. As well as viruses associated with sexually transmitted infections.  Parasites, medications that may cause allergic reactions, lupus, and other connective tissue orders can also contribute to infection.

There are various simple lifestyle changes you can do if you or someone you may know is suffering from conditions of heart disease.  Staying healthy is key; exercising 30 minutes a day, eating low sodium and low saturated fat diet, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and practicing good hygiene. These preliminary steps will also help control other health conditions that contribute to heart disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Also, keep up with annual checkups. Don’t become another statistic.




Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120

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