Heart Disease

Heart disease encompasses a number of diseases that affect the heart. Coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, pericardial disease and congenital heart disease are among the most common terms associated with heart disease.

Coronary artery disease, also known as atherosclerosis, occurs when the arteries become obstructed. This condition restricts the flow of blood, which can lead to heart attack. It is the number o­ne killer in the United States. Chest pain is a common symptom of atherosclerosis, although some people will never experience angina pain prior to having a heart attack. Changes in diet, weight loss, medications, bypass surgery, stents and angioplasty are treatments most often implemented for coronary artery disease.

Arrhythmia is an irregular heart beat that can be caused by coronary artery disease, electrolyte imbalances, changes in the heart muscle and injury caused by heart attack. Medications including beta blockers and blood thinners are often prescribed for this condition. Patients are also advised to stop smoking, limit their intake of caffeine and alcohol and avoid cold medications that contain stimulants. Pacemakers and implantable defibrillators are often used to help maintain a normal heart beat. Surgery to correct problems caused by heart disease may also be necessary.

Cardiomyopathy is a progressive disease of the heart muscle that can cause heart failure, arrhythmia, thickening or hardening of the heart muscle as well as an enlarged heart. Treatment is mainly concerned with correcting the cause of disease and to return the heart to a more normal and healthy state.

Pericardial disease affects the sac that surrounds the heart muscle. Common symptoms are chest pain, increased heart rate and a low grade fever. Treatment options include non-steroidal anti inflammatory medications, steroids, antibiotics, medications to prevent arrhythmias and surgery to remove the diseased pericardium.

Congenital heart disease is a birth defect in the heart or blood vessels that occurs during gestation. Children born with congenital heart disease may experience shortness of breath and physical limitations. Some individuals will never require treatment while others may need medications or surgery to correct the problem.