What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Heart and blood vessel disease — also called heart disease — includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Most people survive their first heart attack and return to their normal lives to enjoy many more years of productive activity. But having a heart attack does mean you have to make some changes. The doctor will advise you of medications and lifestyle changes according to how badly the heart was damaged and what degree of heart disease caused the heart attack. Learn more about heart attack.

An ischemic stroke (the most common type) happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, brain cells will die. The result will be the inability to carry out some of the previous functions as before like walking or talking. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts. The most likely cause is uncontrolled hypertension.

Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after a stroke due to lack of blood and oxygen to the brain. These cells are never replaced. The good news is that some brain cells don’t die — they’re only temporarily out of order. Injured cells can repair themselves. Over time, as the repair takes place, some body functioning improves. Also, other brain cells may take control of those areas that were injured. In this way, strength may improve, speech may get better and memory may improve. This recovery process is what rehabilitation is all about. Learn more about stroke.
Other Types of Cardiovascular Disease

Heart failure: This doesn’t mean that the heart stops beating. Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, means the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. The heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met. Heart failure can get worse if it’s not treated. If your loved one has heart failure, it’s very important to follow the doctor’s orders. Learn more about heart failure.

Arrhythmia: This is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. There are various types of arrhythmias. The heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly. Bradycardia is when the heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute. Tachycardia is when the heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute. An arrhythmia can affect how well the heart works. The heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Learn more about arrhythmia.

Heart valve problems: When heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, it’s called stenosis. When the heart valves don’t close properly and allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. When the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called mitral valve prolapse. When this happens, they may not close properly. This allows blood to flow backward through them. Discover more about the roles your heart valves play in healthy circulation. Learn more about heart valve disease.

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6 Heart Health Tips From a Top Cardiologist

1. Exercise.

Does this mean we all have to start training for the Ironman? No. You can do anything physical that keeps your heart rate up for 30 minutes — or 20 minutes if it’s high intensity — 5 days a week.

Want ideas? Running. Biking. Rowing. In other words, “most things that end with –ing and that you can keep up for a few minutes,” Montgomery says.

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6 Heart Health Tips From a Top Cardiologist
By Tony Rehagen
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC

As you go about your day, you probably don’t think much about the organ that makes it all possible: your heart. It pumps for you all day long, and it’s your hardest working muscle.

You can help keep it going for years to come with these six must-do steps. “It’s some of the best medicine,” says Atlanta cardiologist David E. Montgomery, MD.

1. Exercise.

Does this mean we all have to start training for the Ironman? No. You can do anything physical that keeps your heart rate up for 30 minutes — or 20 minutes if it’s high intensity — 5 days a week.

Want ideas? Running. Biking. Rowing. In other words, “most things that end with –ing and that you can keep up for a few minutes,” Montgomery says.
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DASH Diet for Heart Health — Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
start

If you’re not active now, check in with your doctor first to see if there are any limits on what you can do.
2. Stay active throughout the day.

A workout at the gym is a good start. But what’s going on for the rest of your day?

“If you’re sitting at a desk all day — even if you hit the elliptical [cardio machine] that morning — you’re still at risk for heart disease,” Montgomery says.

When you’re at work, build in breaks from being still. Get up and get your limbs moving and your blood pumping.

Montgomery suggests you take a conference call and answer emails while standing at your desk. You can also swap your regular chair with a balance ball, which keeps your core muscles engaged as you work.

If you check social media on your phone when you’re on a break, get up and pace around the room at the same time. You get the idea: Keep moving.

3. Go old-school with food.

“The way to eat optimally for your heart hasn’t changed in hundreds of years,” Montgomery says. The tried-and-true classics are still your best choices:

Fruits and vegetables
Whole grains, like brown rice and other unrefined carbs
Nuts, seeds, and legumes, such as chickpeas and lima beans

3. Go old-school with food. continued…

Don’t offset the benefits of these foods by frying them or smothering them in butter or cheese. That will raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol that clogs your arteries.

What about meat? You can still have some, but limit how much and avoid fatty cuts.

“We don’t have solid evidence that vegans live longer than vegetarians, or that vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters,” Montgomery says. “But we do know that eating low levels of red meat and high levels of lean meats and fish is a way to optimize your heart health.”

4. Stop smoking… everything.

You probably know that smoking tobacco makes you more likely to get heart disease. What may surprise you is that smoking marijuana is also bad for your heart.
We can’t say that it’s equally bad,” Montgomery says. “But it’s worse than people probably realize.”
5. Learn the fine art of chilling out.

Stress happens! As Montgomery points out, the problem is not the circumstances that cause stress as much as how we respond.

When we’re under pressure, our body ramps up adrenaline, which can overwork our hearts. One way to help is to hop on the treadmill or roll out your yoga mat. Exercise trains your body how to handle stress, Montgomery says.

If stress gets to be too much, talk to someone, whether it’s a trusted friend or a professional counselor.

6. Shut down.

Sleep is when our body reboots and recovers. That’s important for all aspects of our health, not just the heart. “You can’t feel good if you’re not restoring yourself,” Montgomery says.

When you’re asleep, your heart rate and blood pressure go down. That gives your heart a much-need break. Without it, you’re stressed and you’ll crave fuel from high-calorie foods — which, let’s face it, are not heart-healthy.

So make it a priority to be well-rested. You’ll be ready to face whatever the day may bring.

Heart failure

Heart failure is a physiological state in which cardiac output is insufficient to meet the needs of the body and lungs. The term “congestive heart failure” is often used, as one of the common symptoms is congestion, that is, build-up of too much fluid in tissues and veins. Specifically, congestion takes the form of water retention and swelling (edema), both as peripheral edema (causing swollen limbs and feet) and as pulmonary edema (causing breathing difficulty), as well as ascites (swollen abdomen).

Heart failure is divided into two different types: heart failure due to reduced ejection fraction (also known as heart failure due to left ventricular systolic dysfunction or systolic heart failure) and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) also known as diastolic heart failure or heart failure with normal ejection fraction. Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction occurs when the ejection fraction is less than 40%. In diastolic heart failure, the heart muscle contracts well but the ventricle does not fill with blood well in the relaxation phase. Ejection fraction is the proportion of blood pumped out of the heart during a single contraction. It is given as a percentage with the normal range being between 50 and 75%.

The term “acute” is used to mean rapid onset, and “chronic” refers to long duration. Chronic heart failure is a long term condition, usually kept stable by the treatment of symptoms. Acute decompensated heart failure is a worsening of chronic heart failure symptoms which can result in acute respiratory distress. High-output heart failure can occur when there is an increased cardiac output. The circulatory overload caused, can result in an increased left ventricular diastolic pressure which can develop into pulmonary congestion (pulmonary edema).