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Understanding Heart Disease



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When most people think about heart disease, the first thing that generally comes to mind is a heart attack. However, there are a number of conditions besides heart attack that can severely impair the heart’s ability to function, including heart failure, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, and coronary artery disease. Here’s what you need to know about heart disease and its potentially deadly consequences.

Heart Attack

Each year in the U.S., over one million Americans will suffer a heart attack. A sudden disruption in the heart’s blood supply, a heart attack ensues after a coronary artery, the conduits by which blood travels to the heart, become blocked. An interruption of blood flow to the heart, even temporarily, can cause serious damage to the heart muscle and subsequent death. Fortunately, patients who receive immediate medical attention have an excellent chance at recovery.

Patients who suffer a heart attack will experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Pain that spreads throughout the arm, jaw, throat, or back
  • Heartburn, indigestion, nausea
  • Shortness of breath, anxiety, or muscle weakness
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeats

Even if patients only suffer minor symptoms, they still need to seek immediate medical treatment. Studies have shown that women don’t always experience chest pain when suffering a heart attack, and are more likely to experience milder symptoms such as loss of appetite, heartburn, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. This causes many women to postpone seeking treatment until after serious damage has occurred to their heart muscle.

Coronary Artery Disease

A known risk factor for heart attack, coronary artery disease is the result of plaque buildup in a patient’s coronary arteries. The buildup of plaque causes a narrowing to occur in the arteries, which makes it difficult for enough blood to flow through to the heart.

Most people fail to even realize they suffer from coronary artery disease until they experience a heart attack. However, the disease does have a number of warning signs, such as frequent chest pain caused by reduced blood flow, in which individuals who are at risk of heart disease should pay attention.

The plaque that builds up inside the arteries has a hard exterior and a soft interior. When the outer shell of plaque deposits begin to crack, a blood clot develops around the plaque. When a clot becomes too big it can completely block an artery, causing blood flow to that portion of the heart to completely cut off. Unless a person seeks immediate medical care, that portion of the heart muscle may be damaged or destroyed.

This just further illustrates why you should never wait before seeking medical treatment if you believe that you are suffering from a heart attack.


While electrical impulses generated by the body compel your heart to beat, those impulses can occasionally become erratic causing the heart to quiver, slow down, or race. Even though arrhythmias don’t usually present any danger, some types do cause your heart to pump blood less effectively, which can lead to lasting, long-term damage. You need to inform your doctor immediately if you notice an abnormal heartbeat.


A disease the involves an alteration of the heart’s muscles, cardiomyopathy can interfere with the heart’s ability to pump efficiently, which can lead to heart failure. Cardiomyopathy has also been linked to a number of chronic conditions, including heart valve disease and high blood pressure.

Heart Failure

Even though its name sound ominous, heart failure doesn’t actually mean the heart stops beating. Heat failure actually implies your heart no longer pumps enough blood to meet your body’s requirements.  As heart failure progresses, it causes the heart to become larger and to pump faster in order to move the accumulated blood.