February is the month in which we focus on Heart Health. Our heart is made up of muscle that is responsible for pumping blood throughout our entire body to give all the tissues the necessary oxygen and nutrients to live. As we age, changes occur in our heart health, not merely because we are getting older, but because of the lifestyle choices we made n our younger years are catching up to us as we age. As we age we are more at risk for getting heart disease, especially if we already have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. There are many types of heart disease and here are a few examples:
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – the build up of plaque in the inner walls of the coronary arteries making them narrow and hard, which makes blood flow difficult. If the plaque were to break free, there is an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
- Heart Arrhythmia – This is where the hart beats at an irregular rhythm. There are many types of arrhythmia such as Ventricular Tachycardia (V-tach). This is where the bottom part of the heart beats faster than the top. Premature Ventrical Contractions (commonly felt with stress, too much caffeine or nicotine) is when the heart “skips a beat”. Ventricular Fibrillation can be fatal and is when the bottom part of the heart quivers instead of contracting to pump blood. The most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia is Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib), which can be fatal. This is when the top part of the heart quivers instead of contracting to pump blood.
- Congenital Heart Disease – This is a heart disease that someone is born with.
- Heart Valve Disease – This is when a valve stops working properly. There are four valves in the heart. About 5 million people are diagnosed with this per year.
- Pericardial Disease – This is the inflammation of pericardium, which is a thin layer of tissue that surrounds the heart. The purpose of the pericardium is to keep the hart in place and protect it from infection that may occur in that area.
There are many signs/symptoms for heart disease, but the majority have a few similar warning signs: shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, sweating, chest pain, or tightness.
If you are concerned with your heart health, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns!
For more information, check out these references:
National Institute of Aging. https:/www.nia.gov/health/publication/heart-health