Alternate Names : Cardiac Disease
Heart disease is a general term for a wide variety of diseases and conditions that affect the function of the heart.
What is going on in the body?
The main job of the heart is to pump blood to the rest of the body. The primary
concern with most heart conditions is how much they affect the heart's ability
to pump blood. When people use the term heart disease, they are often referring
to atherosclerosis, or clogged
arteries. Clogged heart arteries cause
coronary artery disease, or CAD. In turn, coronary artery disease can lead to:
chest pain in the form of stable
angina or unstable angina
congestive heart failure, in
which the heart fails to pump enough blood to supply body tissues
irregular heartbeats, or
But heart disease can also refer to many other conditions. This is important for
people to remember when they see or hear the term heart disease. Heart disease
is the leading cause of death in the United States and in many other countries.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
There are many causes of heart disease.
Atherosclerosis, or clogging of the
arteries, is partly or fully responsible for many diseases that affect the
congestive heart failure, a
condition in which a weakened heart is unable to pump enough blood throughout the body
heart attacks, also called
irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, such as ventricular tachycardia
stable angina or unstable angina, conditions in which chest pain occurs when the heart doesn't receive enough oxygen
Factors that increase a person's risk of developing atherosclerosis include:
excess weight and obesity
family history of atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease
high blood pressure
high cholesterol levels
lack of exercise
High blood pressure can cause heart
disease even when arteries are not clogged. The increased blood pressure
can cause heart enlargement, called hypertrophy, and congestive heart failure. It also increases the risk of
clogged arteries, which can further damage the heart.
Congenital heart disease, which means heart disease that is
present at birth, can result in a heart that has an abnormal structure or
function. For example, a baby with Down
syndrome may have an atrial septal
defect and/or ventricular septal
defect. Heart valve conditions, such as pulmonary stenosis, may be present at birth as well.
Other causes of heart disease include:
autoimmune disorders, in which the body is attacked by its own immune system
heart valve infections, known as endocarditis, which can
damage the valves and cause conditions such as aortic regurgitation or
infections of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis
infection of the lining around the heart, a condition called bacterial pericarditis
kidney failure, which can cause pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining around the heart. Kidney failure may also cause an abnormal
collection of fluid around the heart, called pericardial effusion.
toxins, such as alcohol and some chemotherapy medicines
used to treat cancer. Both of these can cause a condition called cardiomyopathy,a disease of the heart muscle.
Many other conditions can also affect the heart.