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Your cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and the blood vessels that transport blood all throughout your body. The heart, which is a large fist-sized muscle, is the core of your cardiovascular system. Located leftward in your chest, the heart works as a pump for the blood, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to your body’s...
Introduction
 
Cardiovascular disease, most commonly known as heart disease, is a major problem in the United States. Heart disease occurs when the blood vessels and heart are not properly functioning. Narrowing or blockage of the arteries that provide the heart with blood are the most common cause of heart disease, followed by various disorders that impair vascular and heart functioning. Heart disease comes in many forms, including angina, arteriosclerosis, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Heart disease is life threatening, but several risk factors can be improved and treated with medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery.
 
Anatomy 
 
Your cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and the blood vessels that transport blood all throughout your body. The heart, which is a large fist-sized muscle, is the core of your cardiovascular system. Located leftward in your chest, the heart works as a pump for the blood, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to your body’s cells while carrying away waste products.
 
A thick wall, called the septum, divides your heart into four sections called chambers. The upper two chambers, called atria, receive incoming blood to the heart, while the bottom chambers, called ventricles, send blood outward from the heart.
 
Your heart manages dual pumping systems with one on the left side and one on the right side. The left side’s system comprises the left ventricle and left atrium. When you breathe in, your lungs infuse your blood with new oxygen. Your left atrium receives this newly oxygenated blood and moves it to the left ventricle, which sends it out from your heart to circulate all through the rest of your body.
 
The right side’s pumping system is composed of the right ventricle and right atrium. Deoxygenated blood that has finished circulating throughout the body comes back to the right atrium, which then sends it to the right ventricle. The blood is then sent by the right ventricle to the lungs, where it will receive a fresh supply of oxygen when you inhale.
 
Four valves prevent blood from flowing backward as it travels through the chambers of the heart. The tricuspid and mitral valves control flow from the atria to the ventricles, while the pulmonary and aortic valves regulate blood as it departs the ventricles.
 
Blood vessels that send oxygenated blood outward from the heart are called arteries. Of all the blood vessels in your body, the aorta is the largest. The left ventricle is separated from the aorta by the aortic valve. Coronary arteries branch off from the aorta to keep the heart supplied with nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to keep it healthy. Deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle is carried to the lungs by the pulmonary artery.
 
Vessels that deliver used blood from your lungs and body back to the heart are called veins. The two largest veins in your body are the superior and inferior vena cavae, which are located below and above your heart.
 
Your heart is surrounded by large veins and arteries, which branch out and become tinier as they travel throughout your body. Arteries and veins are connected by small capillaries, which deliver nutrients and oxygen while removing waste products like carbon dioxide.
 
Causes
 
Heart disease typically develops over time and occurs when the heart and blood vessels function improperly. It can result from several heart or cardiovascular system disorders. The most common cause is coronary artery disease, which causes narrow or blocked coronary arteries and impedes blood flow to the heart. In some cases, people are born with heart abnormalities. Other common causes of heart disease include abnormal heart rhythms, heart valve problems, high blood pressure, and toxins or infections that weaken the heart.
 
Heart disease comes in many forms, the most common types being angina, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, and arteriosclerosis. Angina is chest pain caused by the heart receiving insufficient blood due to coronary artery spasms or blockages. A heart attack occurs when the heart cannot function because of its muscle cells lacking adequate oxygenated blood. A stroke happens when the brain lacks oxygenated blood. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood for the body. Arteriosclerosis occurs when fat, calcium, and cholesterol buildup harden and narrow the arteries. It restricts blood flow and can cause blood clots. Additionally, there are numerous other forms of heart disease that affect the heart structures and blood vessels.
 
Symptoms
 
Heart disease is often called “a silent threat” due to many people not experiencing any symptoms until a stroke or heart attack occurs. If you experience cardiovascular symptoms such as shortness of breath, confusion, pain or numbness in your legs and arms, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, and chest pain, call medical services immediately.
 
Diagnosis
 
Consult with your doctor regarding your symptoms. Your doctor will check for abnormal heart rhythms or sounds by listening to your heart and lungs. Your doctor will examine the veins in your neck as well as your liver for enlargement. Your doctor will gain more information about how your circulatory system, kidneys, heart, and liver are functioning through blood and urine lab tests. Your doctor may evaluate your heart using several tests, including a coronary angiography, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (ECG), and nuclear ventriculography. 
 
Several tests can identify a heart attack and the extent of the resulting damage. Commonly, doctors use electrocardiogram, coronary angiography, echocardiogram, and nuclear ventriculography. An electrocardiogram can be repeated over the course of several hours. An echocardiogram produces images of the heart using sound waves. A coronary angiography uses dye and an X-ray to create images of the heart and its arteries. A nuclear ventriculography produces a picture of the heart using a safe radioisotope injection and special scanners.
 
Treatment
 
Every second counts when dealing with stroke or heart attack, so call emergency medical services immediately. Immediate medication attention is crucial to sustain life and prevent further medical complications.
 
Keep your heart healthy with several lifestyle changes, including not smoking, eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption. Your doctor may also suggest that you reduce your fluid and salt intake. 
 
Maintain blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels that are within healthy ranges. Your doctor may prescribe some medications, based on the type of heart disease you have. Avoid potential medical complications by diligently attending follow-up care, which is necessary to monitor your treatments and condition.
 
Several types of surgery are available, depending on the type and severity of the heart disease. The most common surgeries include atherectomy, pacemakers, bypass surgery, valve replacement, carotid endarterectomy, and coronary angioplasty. Coronary angioplasties are used to open up blocked coronary arteries; after this procedure, the surgeon may insert a stent to ensure that the artery remains open.
 
Minimally invasive heart surgery such as coronary artery bypass surgery can also help. This procedure involves moving a blood vessel from somewhere else in the body to restore blood flow to the heart by creating a detour that bypasses a clogged artery. Blood vessels, usually taken from the leg, are surgically attached to the coronary artery. Multiple coronary arteries may need bypass surgery.
 
An atherectomy improves blood flow by removing plaque from an artery. A carotid endarterectomy helps prevent strokes by removing plaque from the carotid arteries. Some patients may be candidates for a heart transplant surgery.
 
Prevention
 
Controlling risk factors such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, diabetes, and activity levels may help prevent coronary artery disease. Quit smoking, exercise regularly, and maintain a heart healthy diet. If you need eating guidelines or help meal planning, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist.
 
Adhere to your doctor’s instructions carefully. Attend all your appointments and take all of your medications as instructed.
 
Am I At Risk
 
The risk for heart disease increases with advancing age because aging changes the blood vessels and heart. Family history of heart disease increases your likelihood of developing heart disease. Other controllable factors include being overweight, smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, illegal drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and lack of exercise.
 
Complications
 
Heart disease can reduce life expectancy, cause complications that reduce your quality of life, and cause death.
 
Advancements
 
Researchers continue to develop and perfect pumps, transplant methods, defibrillators, and implanted heart pacemakers. Artificial heart design is a major project. Researchers are also observing individuals with heart disease to evaluate trends and identify prevention strategies. Additionally, public service awareness are promoting CPR training, heart healthy habits, and awareness and placement of defibrillators in public areas.