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Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and the world, according to the American Heart Association's 2017 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update. With this class of conditions being so common, a list of cardiovascular diseases can help someone determine which risk factors they or their loved ones might have.
Arming yourself with a basic knowledge of these five most common cardiovascular diseases could help you adjust your health and lifestyle to avoid future heart-related health complications.
1. Heart Attack
A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, usually tops the list of cardiovascular diseases in the United States — statistically and anecdotally. Someone in the United States has a heart attack about every 40 seconds. While TV shows and movies commonly portray heart attacks, the outward reactions don't shed light on what's happening inside the body.
A heart attack occurs when the heart muscle is cut off from the oxygen it needs to operate. This happens because the blood flow delivering that oxygen has been significantly reduced or stops entirely. This is due to atherosclerosis, or the slow buildup of plaque, which includes fat, cholesterol, and other substances, in the coronary arteries. Blood clots can form around the plaque, which can slow or block the blood flow and cause a heart attack.
Stroke is considered a heart disease because the condition centers around blood flow. However, a stroke is due to problems with blood flow to the brain rather than the heart. Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes and occur because of blockage in a blood vessel that delivers blood and oxygen to the brain. Without blood and oxygen, parts of the brain can suffer damage or die off if not treated quickly. Hemorrhagic strokes may have various causes besides blockages, such as a vascular malformation or abnormal growth of brain blood vessels.
3. Heart Failure
Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, refers to the heart not pumping blood as well as it should. It does not mean the heart has stopped beating entirely, as the name might suggest. The heart continues to pump blood, but not at a high enough rate for the body to continue to function. The fatigue and shortness of breath that can result from untreated heart failure can greatly interfere with everyday activities like walking or climbing stairs.
A heart arrhythmia is any abnormal rhythm of the heart: too slow, too fast, or at an irregular beat or tempo. Without proper rhythm, the heart doesn't work as effectively. The heart may not be able to pump enough blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to other organs.
5. Heart Valve Complications
Like arrhythmias, heart valve complications can cover a variety of different abnormalities. Stenosis means the valves in the heart don't open enough to allow blood to flow through normally. Regurgitation occurs when the heart valves do not close correctly, which enables blood to leak through. Like the arteries in your heart, the heart valves also need to operate properly to stave off life-changing complications.
This list of cardiovascular diseases can help you identify the most common heart diseases. Your doctor can answer any questions you might have about heart disease and how you can improve your heart health and quality of life through healthy diet and lifestyle choices.