Heart Disease

Heart disease covers numerous conditions that can affect how the heart functions. These can range from coronary artery disease (problems with the blood flow to the heart), heart valve issues, as well as the heart rhythm abnormalities. People can present with one or a combination of these conditions, as each can also coincide with a weakening of the heart muscle (heart failure). Heart disease claims more lives each year than cancer and lung disease combined. 47% of Americans have at least 1 of 3 key-risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking) to develop heart disease.

  1. Coronary artery disease - typically a narrowing or blockage of the vessels providing blood to the different areas of the heart. With the sudden lack of blood flow to areas of the heart, one can develop a myocardial infarction (a heart attack).
    1. Prevalence - coronary artery disease is the leading cause of cardiovascular deaths in the United States (43.8%). Nationwide, coronary artery disease affects 7.4% of American men and 5.3% of American women. Approximately every 40 seconds, an American has a heart attack.
    2. Symptoms - one can feel chest discomfort (a “pain”, “tightness”, or “pressure” in the chest), shortness of breath, and/or pain directed to other parts of their body after an activity or while at rest.
  2. Heart valve disease - when at least one of the four valves of the heart becomes too stiff, damaged or allows blood to leak backwards, the heart has difficulties pushing blood forward to the rest of the body. This can be described as a “heart murmur”.
    1. Prevalence - valve disease increases with age, as this effects 11.7% of American > 75 years of age. Valve disease effects 2.5% of Americans overall, with equal affect to men and women alike.
    2. Symptoms - one can feel tired, their heart rate going too fast or slow, short of breath, swollen feet/ankles, dizziness/lightheadedness, chest discomfort, and/or a feeling of fainting.
  3. Heart Arrhythmias (heartbeat abnormalities) - the heart’s electrical conduction system sends a signal to the different parts of the heart muscle in order to coordinate pumping the blood forward. When the signal is abnormal, the heart cannot pump blood effectively. If the blood remains stagnant from not flowing, a blood clot can form, resulting in a stroke if the clot goes to the brain.
    1. Prevalence - it is estimated that 12.1 million people will be affected by arrhythmias in 2030. As one ages over 65 years old, the chance of developing arrhythmias increases 5% each year.
    2. Symptoms - one can feel their heart rate going too fast or slow, short of breath, dizziness/lightheadedness, chest discomfort, and/or a feeling of fainting.