Heart Disease Basics

Heart diseases are also called cardiac diseases. Individuals of all ages can develop heart diseases. The most common form of heart disease in adults is coronary artery disease, which is the major cause of heart attacks and the most common form of heart disease in children, is congenital heart disease.

Heart disease can affect the heart muscle, the heart vessels, heart tissue or the heart valves. Heart disease can be caused by smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infection, and toxins or from a birth defect. Some people are born with heart disease and most develop heart disease over time.

There are certain factors that put certain people at risk for heart disease such as individuals who have a family history of heart disease, those who smoke, and those who have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol. Individual who are obese or lead inactive lives are also at an increased risk for heart disease. Age increases your risk for heart disease. Some of the risk factors such as family history and age cannot be controlled. Heart disease present at birth can usually not be controlled if it is heredity in nature. Factors such as smoking, blood pressure and blood cholesterol and controlling diseases such as diabetes that when uncontrolled can lead to heart disease. You can reduce your risk for heart disease by controlling your blood pressure and blood cholesterol, by not smoking, and by getting enough exercise and eating healthy foods.

If an individual suspects heart disease due to having symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness or a feeling that something bad is going to happen they should contact their doctor for an exam and diagnosis. Doctors are trained and have the skills to make the diagnosis of heart disease. You will first be asked to fill out a medical history form that will list your general health, and your symptoms as well as any family history. During the examination your vital signs will be taken including your blood pressure, weight, height, pulse, respiratory rate and temperature. The doctor will give you a complete examination to rule out any other diseases. You may be sent to a laboratory for blood tests and to the x-ray department for a chest x-ray. Your doctor will be evaluating your risk for heart disease and any sign of present heart disease. You may also be sent for an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which will reveal any arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms.

You may then be sent for special tests such as an exercise electrocardiogram, a fluoroscopy, phonocardiography, echocardiography, or an angiocardiography (cardiac catheterization). Your doctor will then put all the test results together and determine if you have heart disease or are at risk for heart disease.

Risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, the presence of diabetes, and smoking. These are the highest risk factors. Other factors are age, family history, and being obese and having an inactive lifestyle as well as stress. These last factors are considered minor risk factors.

After your doctor review your test results and determines your heart health and your risk factors for heart disease the doctor will give you a diagnosis or tell you what you can do to decrease your risk for heart disease.

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Originally posted 2008-11-17 12:56:31.

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