General information on Heart diseases

(Contributed by “Shoaib Meran”)

Heart with Stethoscope

Cardiovascular disease:

Do you know world’s leading cause of death is “Cardiovascular diseases”. But do you know what is the meaning of “Cardiovascular”?

That’s the point of this topic. Everyone is not aware of different heart related terms and descriptions. Some very commonly used words are often not understandable by a general community of the world. So, this article is to explain some of these terms and concepts to general public in a simple and time effective manner. I believe that you will share with others too.

Understanding the various terms and how they’re often used — sometimes incorrectly — can help you sort through the morass. And if you know more about the various types of cardiovascular disease, and the havoc they can wreak on your body, you may be more inclined to take steps to prevent them. You’ll also know more about the ways all of the different manifestations of cardiovascular disease interact to affect your health, and you’ll learn how you can best control your risks.

Defining cardiovascular disease

First, consider cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is a broad, all-encompassing term. It’s not a single condition or disorder in itself. Rather, it’s a collection of diseases and conditions.

To get technical, cardiovascular disease refers to any disorder in any of the various parts of your cardiovascular system, which is made up of your heart and the blood vessels throughout your body, explains Brooks Edwards, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn..

Cardiovascular disease, then, has two main components:

Diseases of the heart i.e. cardio and diseases of the blood vessels i.e. vascular.

Sometimes, cardiovascular diseases exist at the time of birth and sometimes it is acquired, which is developed during the lifetime of a person. These acquired conditions are sometimes controllable by certain lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, quitting smoking or eating a balanced diet. But one thing is also to remember that there are many types of heart disease,  not all are the consequences of unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Some Cardiovascular diseases are as follows:

Diseases of the heart:

The heart consists of muscle (myocardium); that pumps blood, arteries; that supply blood to the heart muscle, and valves; to ensure that the blood is pumped in the correct direction. At any point in the pumping process, or in any part of the heart, something can go awry. The diseases and conditions affecting the heart are collectively known as heart disease.

Like cardiovascular disease, the term heart disease is somewhat loose and broad, and it’s often used that way. You may see reports urging you to avoid smoking so that you reduce your risk of heart disease, for instance. And you can. Or that heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women. And it is.

Coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease is one of the most leading form of heart disease.

Coronary artery disease; These are diseases of the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. (coronary refers to the arteries supplying blood the muscles of the heart or veins taking blood away from heart). Sometimes known as CAD. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease in industrialized nations and far and away the leading cause of heart attacks. Coronary artery disease generally means that blood flow through the arteries has become impaired.

The actively contracting heart muscle needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients to function. They’re delivered by blood vessels known as coronary arteries. The most common way such obstructions develop is through a condition called atherosclerosis, a largely preventable type of vascular disease.

Atherosclerosis refers to the formation of raised areas of degeneration and/or cholesterol deposits form on the inner surfaces of the arteries and results in atherosclerotic plaques. As a result the supply of blood to the heart muscle is either reduced or inhibited resulting in myocardial ischemia. This results in malfunctioning of the heart and physical disturbances.

Angina pectoris is a type of chest pain in which heart gets lesser amount of blood than normal amount and start telling you in the form of chest pain.

Myocardial infarction means heart attack which is resulted from the blood clot in the coronary artery interrupting normal blood supply to the heart and that’s why death of a segment of heart muscle occurs. This normally occurs when the oxygen supply with the blood, to the heart, stops or imbalances for more than a few minutes. This may occur without symptoms i.e. silent heart attack especially in people with diabetes.

Lack of blood supply to the heart can also result in disordered heart rhythm which may cause arrhythmias or dysrhythmias, which may also lead to death in certain cases.

Coronary artery disease is different from coronary heart disease. Coronary artery disease is the disease of the arteries whereas coronary heart disease is the diseased condition of all of the heart.

Cardiomyopathy is the disease of the heart muscles as “myo-” refers to “muscle”. It is also known as “Myocardiopathy”. Most common form of cardiomyopathy is ischemic cardiomyopathy in which heart muscles are affected resulting in reduced heart pumping due to coronary artery disease

Systolic dysfunction is due to cardiomyopathy affecting the contraction of the heart and diastolic dysfunction is due to cardiomyopathy affecting the relaxation of the heart. (Systole is the contraction of the heart in which blood is pumped into the arteries and diastole refers to the expansion of the heart in which it is filled with blood).

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle.

Congenital heart disease is that form of heart disease that develops before the birth. They may or may not be detected at the time of birth. It may include Ebstein’s anomaly ( a disease in which one of the heart’s valve’s opening is defected) and narrowing of the section of the aorta i.e. coarctation.

Pericardial disease is the disease of the pericardium of the heart. Pericardium is a sac enclosing the heart. Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium. Pericardial effusion is the fluid accumulation in the pericardium. Constrictive pericarditis is the stiffness of the pericardium. These can be occurred alone or together. Some of the these conditions can be useful such as pericardial effusion is useful in heart attack so that heart may not work efficiently and need more blood.

Diseases related to the valves of the heart are called as valvular heart disease. Direction of blood flow is properly maintained by the valves of the heart. Valvular stenosis refers to the condition in which valve is diseased and blood flow may become obstructed. Valvular regurgitation or valvular insufficiency refers to the leakage through valves. Infectious endocarditis is a condition in which valves are infected and damaged by some micro-organisms.

Congestive heart failure is a condition in which heart no longer pumps normally although steady work is continuous. Congestive heart failure may result in shortness of breath, fluid retention and fatigue as less effective pumping may result in less blood supply to vital organs. It may be slow or acute. Congestive heart failure may occur due to cardiomyopathy, coronary heart disease, valvular heart disease or some other conditions.

Rheumatic heart disease is a form of heart disease resulting from rheumatic fever which is a condition of the stiffness of the joints and muscles.

Bradycardia is a condition in which heart rate is slowed down usually less than 60 beats per minute in normal adults. It opposite term is Tachycardia in which heart rate is exceeded then normal and may go upto 100 beats per minute in resting adult.

Corpulmonale is a diseased condition of the heart caused by lungs or pulmonary blood vessels. In this condition right ventricle of the heart is enlarged and fails.

Diseases of the blood vessels:

High blood pressure; High blood pressure (hypertension) is perhaps the most common form of cardiovascular disease.

Blood pressure refers to the pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels of the heart. When this pressure is increased it is known as high blood pressure. In most cases, it is high arterial blood pressure. It may resulted in abnormally high systolic and/or diastolic pressure. More blood pressure means more work by the heart. It’s also one of the most preventable and cureable types of cardiovascular diseases.

High blood pressure may lead to stroke in which blood flow to the brain is blocked due to damage of blood vessels as a result of cholesterol or other clump.

High blood pressure can lead to congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease and/or heart attack.

Aneurysm is a swelling in the artery resulting in weakening the artery. Most commonly it occurs in abdominal aorta and the arteries at the base of the brain. The vast majority of aneurysms occur when an artery wall becomes weak or damaged by atherosclerosis.

Vasculitis refers to the inflammation of the blood vessels. It is also called as angiitis.

Venous incompetence is the condition in which blood in the veins start flowing in the wrong direction. It may occur due to infection, abnormal blood clotting or inflammation.

Venous thrombosis is the abnormal clot formation in a vein. When this clot starts moving and gets lodged in the lungs than the condition namely pulmonary embolism may develop.

Varicose vein is a vein in which vein become abnormally swollen and gets tied and tangled as a result of defective valves.

Heart murmur refers to the unusual sound coming from the heart that can be detected by stethoscope (medical instrument used to listen heartbeat) and may indicate heart defect.

Your comments are highly welcomed.


Shoaib Meran, Batch-5, Pharmaceutics Department, Hajvery University, Lahore, Pakistan.

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