Heart conditions have become increasingly common in the general population. Diabetes, high blood pressure, inactivity, tobacco, and alcohol use, and poor diet all contribute to the development of heart problems. These conditions can be treatable, but frequently they are serious and require treatment from a cardiology specialist. Dr. Allen Amorn, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist situated in Canfield, Ohio, shares the top 6 heart problems and their causes, along with general recommendations to reduce the chances of developing serious heart disease.
1. Coronary Artery Disease
Also known as atherosclerosis, this extremely common disease is known as hardening of the arteries. Patients experience a buildup of plaque in their arteries which stiffens their walls and inhibits blood flow to the rest of the body. This disease is caused by poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity. This problem can contribute to many other heart disorders if it is not managed properly.
2. Heart Arrhythmia
Another common heart problem is arrhythmia or an uneven heartbeat. This condition leads patients to feel heart racing, dizzy, cause a fainting spell, and shortness of breath. The causes of arrhythmias include congenital heart defects, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, drug abuse, sleep apnea, obesity, and genetic abnormalities. Excessive stress can also be a cause of heart arrhythmias.
Valvular heart disease, or a malfunction in the heart’s valves, can also be a cause of the arrhythmia. In acute cases, electrical shock or drug or alcohol use can lead to arrhythmia in a person with a previously healthy heart.
3. Congenital Defects of the Heart
Frequently, children are born with heart defects. This can happen when the heart forms incorrectly while the baby is in the womb. Some of these problems include holes in the heart, heart murmurs, incomplete chamber or vessel formation, and valve problems. Congenital defects can sometimes be missed during childhood and not be discovered until adulthood. These issues frequently require a specialist in congenital heart disease.
4. Cardiomyopathy/Heart Failure
Cardiomyopathy is the enlarging or thickening of the heart muscle. It can lead to weakened function in the heart and a lack of oxygen to the body’s systems. Dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common type, could be caused by a reduced flow of blood to the heart after a heart attack. Toxins, drugs, and infections can also cause this problem. It can also be a congenital problem.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is caused when the heart muscle develops abnormal thickness. This makes it harder for the heart to beat as efficiently, lowering effective circulation in the body. This is generally a congenital disease.
5. Heart Infections
Hearts can become infected when bacteria or viruses enter them. Parasites could also be involved. These infections, like endocarditis, are generally serious and must be treated with antibiotics to ensure the patient’s safety. Maintaining good dental hygiene and avoiding bloodstream infections such as sepsis or the use of intravenous drugs can be critical in the prevention of such problems.
6. Valvular Disease
Heart valves can be damaged by several conditions. Three of the most common are infections like endocarditis, rheumatic fever, and disorders of the connective tissue. Frequently, valve problems are inherited or congenital. Heart failure or cardiomyopathy can also cause distortion of valve anatomy which can cause significant valve leakage. Age-related issues can also contribute to heart valve narrowing which can require treatment.
General Risks for Heart Disease
Dr. Allen Amorn reminds patients that heart disease can be preventable in many ways. While advancing age is a risk factor for everyone and family history cannot be changed, many factors can be controlled to reduce a patient’s chance of heart disease in the future.
It is best to quit smoking. Smokers are more likely to have heart attacks than non-smokers. This is because carbon monoxide damages the lining of the blood vessels and nicotine restricts them. This leads to atherosclerosis which can be a slippery slope to heart disease.
Eat a healthy diet. A diet too high in fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol can be a serious risk factor for heart disease. Consider following the Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by fresh fish, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil.
Control high blood pressure. Visit your doctor regularly for blood pressure checks if you are at risk for heart disease and control your blood pressure through diet and exercise as well as medications.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major cause of heart disease. Together with inactivity, obesity opens the door to numerous cardiac conditions which can have devastating effects.
Trust Your Cardiologist
If you have been diagnosed with a heart problem, follow your cardiologist’s recommendations closely. It may be difficult to make the lifestyle changes that are necessary to help to reduce your risk of serious illness or death from heart disease, but the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Dr. Allen Amorn emphasizes the benefits of positive lifestyle changes in preventing heart disease.