What Causes Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the collective name given to the variety of diseases that affect the heart. It is characterised by circulation problems, problems with the myocardium or heart muscle and in rare cases hereditary causes.  Circulation problems involve issues with the blood vessels leading to and from the heart which results in inadequate blood flow.

While there are many risk factors, no one can effectively determine what causes heart disease. What is certain is that heart disease is impartial to race, age or weight, and is a silent killer. According to the National Vital Statistics Report available on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States as of 2007. The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease.

Risk Factors to Heart Disease

The truth about what causes heart disease has plagued many physicians. While there is no definitive answer, it is certain that heart disease is mainly a lifestyle disease and exposure to certain risk factors will point in the direction of heart disease. Some risk factors include:

  1. Obesity
  2. Stress
  3. Hypertension
  4. Diabetes
  5. Smoking
  6. Drinking alcohol
  7. Hyperlipidemia
  8. Age

Types of Heart Disease

Coronary artery disease, a lifestyle disease, is one of the more popular types of heart disease. Coronary heart disease is characterised by an atherosclerotic build up of plaque in the coronary artery (blood vessel that supply oxygen to the heart muscle). This disease is caused by an abundance of bad cholesterol or low density lipoproteins (LDL) in the blood.  These LDL molecules are concentrated into fat which circulate in the blood and eventually deposit themselves as plaque in the coronary artery. Obesity, increasing age, stress, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are all contributory risk factors.

Congestive heart failure and hypertensive heart disease are also very popular due to their infection rates; these come with their own set of risk factors. With congestive heart failure, the heart is inefficient in working as a pump and is unable to supply the required amount of blood that the body needs. Causes for congestive heart failure include ischemic heart disease, valvular heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and smoking.

Hypertensive heart disease, or hypertension, is characterized by a chronic heightening of the diastolic and systolic blood pressure above normal blood pressure (that is above 120/80 mmHg). Essential and Secondary hypertension are two forms of the disease. Essential hypertension has no identifiable cause but affects 95% of all hypertensive patients. Risk factors include hypokalemia (low potassium blood levels) smoking, obesity, high alcohol intake and water retention caused by sodium sensitivity. Genetics are also an important factor since the risk of hypertension increases if a family member has had the disease; this increases even more if it is an immediate family member. Secondary hypertension is caused by an identifiable underlying cause and affects few people in comparison to essential hypertension.

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