Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 600,000 die from heart disease every year. Often referred to as a “silent killer”, several people with heart disease are unaware that they are at risk or actually have this disease. Doctors are usually unable to diagnose the disease until you show signs of a heart attack or heart failure. Here are the major types of cardiovascular disease:
Rheumatic heart disease: one or more attacks of rheumatic fever (usually caused by streptococcal bacteria) which inflict damage to the heart, particularly the heart’s valves. Most cases result in the infection scarring the valves, weakening the heart muscle, or damaging the sac enclosing the heart. The scarring of the valves often results in the valves not being able to open or close normally.
Valvular heart disease: valves may narrow (stenosis), leak (regurgitation/insufficiency) or not close properly (prolapse). The most common causes of valvular disease are infections, connective tissue disorders, damaged valves caused by conditions such as rheumatic fever, certain medications or radiation treatments for cancer, or it is possible to be born with the disease.
Aneurysm: a bulge or weakness in the wall of a blood vessel. These can enlarge over time and can be fatal if they burst. It can be caused by high blood pressure or a weak spot in a blood vessel wall. They can occur in arteries in any location in your body but most commonly occur in the abdominal aorta and the arteries in the base of the brain.
Atherosclerosis: walls of the arteries become thick and stiff because of the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) which then causes blood flow to become restricted. It can happen anywhere in the body. Atherosclerosis in the arteries on the surface of the heart (coronary arteries) is known as coronary artery disease. In the legs, it’s called peripheral arterial disease. Atherosclerosis can have severe consequences and can result in heart attack and stroke.
Click here to view an detailed animation video of how plaque builds up in the walls of arteries, causing atherosclerosis.
High blood pressure (hypertension): excessive force of blood flowing through one’s blood vessels, can cause many different types of heart disease including stroke, heart failure, and renal disease Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): caused by atherosclerosis in the legs, starts as pain in the legs while walking (which is relieved by rest) and if one has PAD, they are at a greater risk of developing gangrene in their legs.
Angina: starts as pain in the chest that is caused by the reduced blood supply to the heart (ischemia), angina results from atherosclerosis. Typical symptoms include: pain in the chest that can often radiate to the left arm, shoulder, or jaw (that can usually be relieved by rest). An angina attack is associated with shortness of breath and sweating, however, women have more pain in their shoulder and middle back area (as well as more throat, neck, and jaw pain than men). If one’s angina symptoms worsen over time and occur at rest, it can allude to an impending heart attack (myocardial infarction) and they should seek medical help immediately.Atherosclerosis
Coronary artery disease: (also known as ischemic heart disease), caused by atherosclerosis and one of the most common forms of heart disease and the leading cause of heart attacks and heart failure
Coronary heart disease: disease of the arteries on the surface of the heart and the resulting complications (including angina, heart attacks, and heart failure)
Heart attack: also known as myocardial infarction, occurs when heart’s supply of blood is stopped. It can be fatal if one does not receive medical attention and treatment right away to deal with the blockage after you have your heart attack. But the heart attack can weaken/damage the heart afterwards. Symptoms include: severe chest pain (that may radiate to the left arm, shoulder, or jaw), shortness of breath, cold sweating, and feeling dizzy/faint. Women may have difficulty breathing rather than chest pain, be excruciatingly tired, and have pain in the shoulder, jaw, and/or upper back.
Cerebral vascular disease: caused by atherosclerosis in blood vessels that lead to the brain, when the flow of blood is cut off, it can lead to strokes and transient ischemic attacks
Transient ischemic attacks: temporary loss of blood to the brain which results in a brief, sudden change in brain function, can start as temporary numbness/weakness on one side of the body, loss of balance, blindness (in one or both eyes), double vision, difficulty speaking and confusion, or a severe headache. Permanent damage is unlikely, however, and these symptoms usually disappear quickly.
Stroke: when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, can happen when a blood vessel in the brain or neck is blocked or bursts (when this happens, the brain is deprived of oxygen and parts of your brain may be damaged permanently), Possible consequences include: problems with speech or vision, weakness, or paralysis.
Cardiomyopathy: diseases of the heart muscle, some types are genetic while others result from infections/other reasons. One of the most common types is idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (where the heart is enlarged). Other types are: ischemic- loss of heart, dilated- heart enlarged, hypertrophic- heart muscle is thickened
Valvular heart disease
Pericardial disease: sac that encloses heart (pericardium) can be affected by various conditions including: inflammation (pericarditis), fluid accumulation (pericardial effusion), and stiffness (constrictive pericarditis).
Bradycardia: when heart’s electrical signal is delayed too long (or blocked), resulting in a slower heartbeat than normal. If it continues over a long period of time, the body will not receive an adequate blood supply which can result in very severe consequences.
Irregular heartbeats: can occur once in a while but, in some cases, can lead to rapid heartbeats
Ventricular tachycardia (VT): when heart’s electrical signal begins in ventricles and heart beats too rapidly which results in the heart not being able to deliver enough blood to the body. VT can create a very rapid or erratic heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation) or cardiac arrest in some cases but if it lasts for only a second or two, it may go unnoticed and not cause any problems. Long term control of VT may require a implanted defibrillator and/or medication.
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT): when body receives an inadequate supply of blood due to rapid, erratic heartbeats (caused by the heart’s electrical signal beginning in the ventricles).
3 types include: