The Most Common Heart Disease Explained

The heart becomes sick when the arteries get "clogged" (atherosclerosis), when it no longer pumps enough blood (ischemic cardiomyopathy), or when irregular beats occur (arrhythmias). Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. The most commonly encountered types of disease are hypertension, ischemic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and valve failures. Associated, they can lead to heart disease or failure.

Causes of Heart Disease

Scientific studies show that, at a psycho-emotional level, disease (especially in the acquired forms) frequently occurs in those who live their lives under stress. The efforts of these individuals far exceed their emotional limits. Along with the mental and emotional causes of disease, one may also mention disordered eating and a diet that includes many animal fats, excess salt and sweets, as well as sedentarism.

But it doesn't stop here: low levels of estrogen (female hormones), especially in women entering menopause early, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Some studies have shown that a too low or too high testosterone increases "bad" cholesterol, which leads to a sickness.

In a recent study, published by the British Medical Journal, it has been shown that people who live close to an airport and are exposed to constant loud aircraft noises may face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the study, people who live near Heathrow airport are 10-20% more likely to be admitted to hospital for a stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

The results imply that airport location and the consequent exposure to aircraft noise may have direct effects on the health of the surrounding population. "Planners need to take this into account when expanding airports into heavily populated areas or when planning new airports", stated Professor Stephen Stansfeld of the Queen Mary University of London.

When does a heart attack occur?

Atherosclerosis means the thickening and clogging of heart arteries. Some of its causes include smoking, obesity, and stress. Repeated chest pain is a symptom of atherosclerosis, but most patients only find out that they have blocked arteries after an attack. The myocardial attack occurs when the heart is no longer supplied with blood because of blockages in the coronary arteries.

The first signs include pain or pressure in the chest, a tightness in the right lower back, neck, arm or jaw, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, fatigue and anxiety, shortness of breath, irregular or rapid heartbeat. Women do not always feel chest pain during a heart attack, but rather, nausea, loss of appetite, weakness and coughing.

What happens when the heart starts "running"?

Normally, heartbeats are rhythmic. They sometimes become irregular. Typically, cardiac arrhythmias are harmless and go away quickly, but some types can even lead to a loss of consciousness. There is also the risk of the heart stopping and thus requiring resuscitative measures.

Ischemic cardiomyopathy describes changes in the myocardium. A weak heart has no power to pump blood throughout the body, so the blood accumulates in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles), which expand. The cardiac muscle loses its shape and becomes weaker.

Heart failure occurs when the muscle can no longer pump the amount of blood required by the body. The heart does not stop, but simply doesn't work at full capacity and begins to grow in size. This can lead to a stroke, a attack and pulmonary embolism.