The Most Common Cardiovascular Diseases
- Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is among the most frequently encountered heart diseases. Blood can travel freely through a healthy coronary artery, making it possible to supply the heart with the oxygen rich blood that it needs.
High levels of cholesterol and blood pressure or smoking can damage the interior of the arteries, resulting in a buildup of plaque inside the arterial walls and preventing the flow of blood. This situation signals the beginning of coronary heart disease.
The more plaque builds up in the artery, the narrower the artery becomes, further reducing the amount of blood flowing into the heart. This starves the heart of oxygen, causing chest pains.
A narrowed artery blocked entirely by blood clots results in a heart attack (myocardial infarction). The lack of oxygen-rich blood leads to permanent damage in the heart muscle.
- Heart Attack
A heart attack begins when the coronary arteries feeding the heart or any of their branches get blocked. This results in irreversible damage to the heart muscle or a fatal heart attack. Heart attacks are the most serious of all coronary heart diseases.
Two leading risk factors increase the risk of heart attack: “unchangeable risks” and “changeable risks”. Unchangeable risks include genetic factors, age, and being a male. Men and people with family members with a history of early heart attacks are at greater risk. Risks also increase with age.
The second group is “changeable risks”. The reduction of these risk factors is entirely dependent upon the efforts of the individual. Smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, high levels of blood fats, and obesity are all included in this group.
The primary symptom of a heart attack is a pain in the chest. In classic cases of heart attacks, this pain is severe and crushing. Early intervention is of extreme importance in heart attacks and being aware of the symptoms enables the individual to seek medical assistance without wasting time.
- Cardiac Valve Diseases
The heart has four valves that open and close continuously, always. The inadequate opening and closing of the valves can result in cardiac valve diseases.
Valve diseases can be congenital or developed after rheumatism in childhood, or calcification in old age.
Complaints can vary depending on which valve is diseased. Symptoms begin to emerge as complaints increase. These are generally fatigue, becoming quick to tire, palpitations, feeling blocked, a shortage of breath, and swollen feet signaling an edema in the body.
Prior to any complaints, valve diseases can get diagnosed by chance during routine check-ups, when the doctor hears a murmur in the heart. As complaints increase, a diagnosis can be made using special diagnostic techniques; electrocardiography, chest X-ray, echocardiography and heart catheterization.
In arrhythmia, problems arise as a result of heart beat rate. Although arrhythmias are generally seen in patients with already existing cardiac conditions, they can also develop in people who have no health problems.
Some sufferers are unaware of these problems and will only get diagnosed during a routine checkup, or following an electrocardiography taken for another reason. Yet, a significant number of patients consult their doctors with complaints of palpitations, irregular heartbeats, feeling an irregular sensation in the chest, a feeling of emptiness, dizziness, fainting, a reduction in the capacity for exertion, and shortness of breath.
Endocarditis is the microbial inflammation of the inner layer of the heart, called the endocardium which also involves the heart valves. Symptoms vary depending on the part of the heart that is infected and the type of bacteria causing the infection.
Patients are given antibiotics intravenously for at least 4-6 weeks. Surgery is an option in heart failure caused by endocarditis or upon the expulsion of blood clots.
It is imperative that endocarditis receives treatment. Heart patients in particular need careful protection.
- Cardiomyopathies (Heart Muscle Diseases)
Defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1995, cardiomyopathies are diseases of the heart muscle that result in the dysfunction of the heart. The four groups of cardiomyopathies are as follows:
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Restrictive Cardiomyopathy
- Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy
There are many factors that cause cardiomyopathies including coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, hypertension, systemic infections, diseases of the metabolic system, genetic reasons, and a variation of poisoning.
Surgery can be carried out under circumstances where medication or interventions cannot be implemented.
- Major Vascular Diseases
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms:Damage to the aortic wall causes the largest artery exiting the heart to expand to 1.5 times its original size in the abdominal area. It is more frequently observed in older men. There are generally 2-3 cases in every 10 thousand people.
People who smoke, have familial aneurysms, are older or tall, or have blocked arteries, high levels of cholesterol, or chronic lung disease and hypertension, are at risk of developing abdominal aortic aneurysms.
More often than not, abdominal aortic aneurysms do not display any symptoms. The disease is usually identified when the patient consults the doctor for another medical complaint. Approximately 25 percent of patients can suffer continuous or temporary stomach aches.
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: These are aneurysms that form in the aorta in the chest area. A localized expansion of approximately 4 cm is called an aneurysm. 1-1.5 percent of patients with thoracic aneurysms are aged 65 and over.
Patients aged 65 and over are more prone to the disease in later years. Thoracic aneurysms can be triggered by aortic dissections, familial aneurysm, connective tissue disease (Marfan Syndrome), trauma, and infectious diseases.
Thoracic aortic aneurysms generally do not display any symptoms. Wide aneurysms can cause pain in the chest, back and abdomen. Complaints are similar to a heart attack. However, other symptoms can also include dysphonia, difficulty in swallowing, coughing or vomiting, and bleeding. The sudden onset of these symptoms can signal the presence of an emergency situation such as the aorta rupturing.
Dissection: Aortic dissection is a tear in the wall of the aorta. Clinical progress may vary depending on the location of the aortic tear.
In most patients, the condition is caused by hypertension. It may also develop as a result of various diseases such as aortic aneurysm, collagen tissue diseases, aortic stenosis, aortic coarctation and other medical procedures related to the aorta. Symptoms frequently begin with a sudden, severe chest and back pain described as being similar to stabbing. It may also be accompanied by complaints such as perspiration, coldness, nausea and vomiting.
Peripheral Embolisms: Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is narrowness or the constriction of veins other than the coronary veins that supply the heart. The constriction is so advanced that not enough blood is supplied to the organs.
Diabetes, long-term hypertension, long term lipid metabolism disorder, history of atherosclerosis (vessel stiffness) in the family, gout, insufficient exercise, and nicotine addiction are among the risk factors.
The most common complaint is pain. However, characteristics of the pain differ: People with constriction suffer from pain after walking a certain distance. As the constriction increases, walking distance decreases. It is usually felt as cramps. However, the pain disappears after resting for 2-5 minutes.
Vena Constrictions (Venous Thrombosis): Vena constrictions caused by a small clot in the vena may sometimes never have any symptoms. However, the tiniest of clot can be life threatening depending on its location. Surgical methods are implemented on patients who do not respond to medical treatment, who suffer a risk of gangrene, and who have intensive pulmonary embolisms.
- Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are defined as expanding, elongating, and the twisting of vena in the leg. They are observed in 10-20% of the Western population. The likelihood of varicose veins is proportional to age. Every other person over 50 suffers from varicose veins.
There are 4 types of varicose veins:
a. Spider web: These veins settle superficially on the skin. They have a diameter of 1 mm or less, cannot be felt to the touch, and are usually red in color. They are widespread linear forms in the shape of a star or a spider web and may spread to the whole leg.
- Reticular varicose:It is difficult to feel this type of varicose vein that is slightly swollen on the skin, has a diameter of less than 4 mm, and is blue in color.
- Great vena varicose veins (Saphena varicose vein):These are varicose veins that are easily felt and seen, and which form large twists along the large and small saphena. They have diameters of less than 3 mm. As they run under the skin, they do not usually change the color of the skin, with only the greenish reflection of the vein visible. The swellings become pronounced when standing and disappear when feet are raised while lying down.
- Deep great vein varicose:These are in the deep layer of the leg. Varicose veins cannot be observed on the skin, yet cause edema and circulation disorder in the leg.
They are more common in women than men, and in people with a history of varicose veins in the family. Varicose veins may also occur as a result of obesity, aging, pregnancy, menopause, prolonged standing, and constriction and valve disorders in the deep vena.
The exact cause of varicose veins is unknown. The primary cause is the enlargement of the vein due to a structural deformation on the vena wall. This leads to a reverse flow of blood due to a malfunctioning valve in the vein. This reverse flow makes it more difficult for blood to return to the heart, gradually increasing the pressure in the vena. The increase in the pressure further enlarges the veins, creating a vicious cycle.
Varicose veins also have less common causes. In individuals who have a constricted deep vena, the superficial vena that carries 10 percent of the blood in the leg assumes the whole return of the venous blood in the leg. Therefore the diameter increases and forms varicose veins.