Heart diseases – what you need to know?

One of the vital specialities of medicine is cardiology, which is derived from the Greek word ‘cardia’ meaning heart & ‘logy’ meaning study. Hence it is a branch which deals with treating heart and blood vessels disorders and even includes congenital defects to acquired heart diseases such as coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure.

Clinicians who specialise in cardiology are called cardiologists & they take care of medical management of various cardiac conditions. In certain disorders, when medical management is not enough, cardiac surgeries are performed by cardiac surgeons. If you want to get a good treatment for your heart disease, visit the best cardiac hospitals in Bangalore.

Investigation & diagnosis

There are several diagnostic and therapeutic procedures performed in cardiology. Some of the main procedures include:

  • Pulse palpation.
  • Measuring blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) is done to measure the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the heart, like ultrasonography.
  • Cardiac stress test to check the heart’s response to external stress, which might be induced through drugs or exercise.
  • Cardiac MRI – evaluate the heart’s anatomy as well as its function to diagnose specific diseases such as heart muscle diseases (cardiomyopathies) or diseases of the outer lining of the heart (the pericardium).
  • CT coronary angiography.
  • Cardiac catheterisation – performed to get information about the coronary artery. X-rays of the heart may be taken in a procedure called coronary angiography
  • Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) –carried out to open blocked coronary arteries and restore blood flow.

Cardiology & its Scope

A few of the common symptoms that can indicate a heart problem include shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, changes in heart rate or rhythm. Some heart diseases that a cardiologist can help with includes atherosclerosis, atrial fibrillation, arrhythmias, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, functional defects related to the myocardium, congestive heart disease, high blood cholesterol, hypertension, pericarditis, ventricular tachycardia, valvular defects and the list goes on.

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Valvular disease

The heart has four valves — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid valves. They open and close to direct the blood flow through different chambers of the heart. Many factors can damage heart valves, leading to narrowing (stenosis), leaking (regurgitation or insufficiency) or improper closure (prolapse).

Congenital heart disease

A congenital heart defect is a heart abnormality present at birth, and this problem can affect the heart walls, heart valves, or blood vessels. It is often detected during an antenatal ultrasound, and if the doctor hears an abnormal heartbeat, they may investigate further.

Newborns presenting heart defects may have bluish lips, skin, fingers, toes, and breathlessness, feeding difficulties, low birth weight, chest pain, or delayed growth. Treatment for a congenital heart defect varies on the type and severity of the defect. Some may heal on their own with time, and others require extensive treatment.

CAD – the silent killer

Coronary artery disease (CAD) causes impaired blood flow in the coronary arteries that supply oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart. Also called coronary heart disease (CHD), CAD is the most common form of heart disease affecting many people, and it’s one of the leading causes of death.

A heart attack can come from uncontrolled CAD. The most common cause of CAD is a vascular injury where the cholesterol plaque buildup in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. This results in reduced blood flow where one or more of these arteries becomes partially or totally obstructed.

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Symptoms not to ignore

Specific symptoms of CAD include pain in the arms or shoulders, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, etc. Women also experience the above symptoms, but they’re more likely to have nausea, vomiting, back pain, or shortness of breath without feeling chest pain.

Risk factors

Risk factors involving heart disease include –

  • Age – getting older increases one’s risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and a weakened or thickened heart muscle.
  • Sex – Men are generally at greater risk, whereas for women, it increases after menopause.
  • Family history
  • Smoking – Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
  • Poor diet – a diet that’s high in fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure – Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening followed by a narrowing of coronary arteries, through which blood flows.
  • High blood cholesterol levels – Higher the level of cholesterol in your blood higher the risk of plaque formation and atherosclerosis.
  • Diabetes – increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Obesity – Excess weight typically worsens all other heart disease risk factors.
  • Physical inactivity – lack of exercise is also associated with many forms of heart disease.