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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter


Types of Heart Disease


The major underlying cause of cardiovascular disease has been associated with atherosclerosis. This is the buildup of fatty deposits within the walls of arteries that restricts the flow of blood.

Ultimately, the arteries may get blocked affecting the heart, brain and other parts of the body. This disease can begin in childhood. The linings of the arteries becomes thickened by fatty deposits called plaque. The artery walls become hard and thick as these deposits build up. Then the arteries lose their ability to expand and contract. Blood cannot move through them as easily. If a clot of blood or plaque becomes lodged in one of these arteries, then the artery may become completely blocked. Then the body tissues that the artery supplies are deprived of needed oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, the tissues begin to die. If a blocked artery is to the heart, a heart attack may occur. If a blocked artery is to the brain, a stroke may occur.


Arteries that supply the heart with blood may become narrowed due to atherosclerosis. This condition is called coronary artery disease. People with this condition may not have any symptoms. In more severe cases, chest pain called angina pectoris can be caused by narrowed arteries. Narrowed arteries can deliver enough blood to meet the normal heart needs. However, during excitement, physical exertion, exposure to cold, or digestion of a heavy meal, the heart requires additional blood. Then the blood supply to the heart muscle is insufficient to meet these demands. Angina pectoris may occur suddenly. The pain is under the breastbone but may also be present in the neck or arms. It is usually relieved by rest and medication.

Heart Attack

The heart muscle, like other body tissues, needs an adequate supply of blood to stay alive. If a blood clot in a narrowed artery blocks the flow of blood to the part of the heart muscle, a heart attack occurs. The section of heart muscle that does not receive the blood begins to die. This condition is called myocardial infarction, or M.I. As a result of M.I., heart action can be seriously impaired. A heart attack may be a sudden episode. However, the condition that leads to an attack, coronary heart disease, develops over a long period of time.

Often, the symptoms of heart attack are confused with those of indigestion. Signs of a heart attack include uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest, and sometimes in the arms and shoulders, lasting for two minutes or more. Sweating, dizziness, nausea, fainting, or shortness of breath may also occur. The dying area may upset normal electrical activity. The heart starts a wild, twitching movement called ventricular fibrillation. Then the heart is no longer pumping blood effectively. If this happens, CPR should be administered immediately.

The treatment for heart attacks may include drugs, surgery, and physical therapy. If a person survives a heart attack, the healing process begins almost immediately. Scar tissue begins to form and gradually replaces the destroyed heart muscle. Small arteries bordering on the damaged area enlarge to provide a sufficient supply of blood to the heart.

The extent of damage suffered during the heart attack determines the time necessary to recuperate. Most of the victims of heart attacks have a good chance of returning to normal life. Overwork, tension, worrying, emotional episodes, lack of rest, excess weight, and smoking must be avoided. Most of the heart attack victims learn to live a healthy life; so many never face a second heart attack.

Congestive Heart Failure:

Prolonged high blood pressure, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases can cause congestive heart failure. The heart muscles may then lack the strength to keep blood circulating normally through the body. Blood flow slows and is inadequate to supply the body's needs. Blood returning to the heart is backed up, causing swelling. This is generally predominant in the ankles and legs. Kidneys may not work properly. As a result, fluid may collect in the lungs.

Congestive heart failure requires a rest, a low salt diet, and drug therapy. Sometimes the underlying cause of heart failure can be corrected. Replacing the defective heart valves, for example, may correct the problem and in that instance the symptoms of congestive heart failure will disappear.

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