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Heart Disease Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy The term "heart disease" is a catch-all for the many kinds of disorders which can affect the heart. This article is an overfiew. The individual causes of heart disease are each dealt with in separate articles. Heart disease It is the leading cause of death in the United States,taking an average of 2,541 lives every day.

Categories of Heart Disease

Coronary Artery Disease

Approximately 1/2 of people who die of heart disease in the U.S. die of coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease (CAD) affects the arterial system which supplies the heart and is usually caused by accumulation of atheromatous plaque within the walls of those arteries. Angina pectoris (chest pain) and myocardial infarction (heart attack) are usually caused by coronary heart disease.

Intrinsic Cardiomyopathies

These nvolve weakness of the muscle of the heart not due to an identifiable external cause. Here are the different types:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy - the most common form, and one of the leading indications for heart transplantation. The heart (especially the left ventricle) is enlarged and the pumping function diminished.
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy - this condition arises from an electrical disturbance of the heart in which heart muscle is replaced by fibrous scar tissue. The right ventricle is generally most affected.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - this is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in genes encoding sarcomeric proteins. The heart muscle is thickened which can obstruct blood flow and prevent proper pumping action.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy - this is the least common cardiomyopathy. The walls of the ventricles are stiff, but may not be thickened, and resist the normal filling of the heart with blood.
  • Noncompaction cardiomyopathy - the left ventricle wall fails to develop properly from birth and has a spongy appearance when viewed during an echocardiogram.

Extrinsic Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy literally means "heart muscle disease." It is a deterioration of the functionality of the myocardium (the actual heart muscle) for any reason. People with cardiomyopathy are at risk of arrhythmia (disturbance of the electrical rhythm of the heart) and/or sudden cardiac death. In extrinsic cardiomyopathies the primary pathology is outside the myocardium itself. Most cardiomyopathies are extrinsic, because by far the most common cause of a cardiomyopathy is ischemia (too low blood flow and therefore reduce oxygenation). Here is a list of extrinsic cardiomyopathies:

  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Nutritional diseases affecting the heart
  • Hypertensive cardiomyopathy
  • Ischemic cardiomyopathy
  • Valvular cardiomyopathy
  • Inflammatory cardiomyopathy
  • Cardiomyopathy secondary to a systemic metabolic disease (e.g. diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperhomocysteinemia and hypercholesterolemia)

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease can involve any of a number of specific diseases that affect the heart itself and/or the blood vessel system, especially the veins and arteries leading to and from the heart. Women who suffer with cardiovascular disease usually suffer from forms that affect the blood vessels while men usually suffer from forms that affect the heart muscle itself. Types of cardiovascular disease include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart failure - also called congestive heart failure (or CHF) is a condition that can result from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to fill with, or pump, a sufficient amount of blood through the vascular system.
  • Cor pulmonale -, a failure of the right side of the heart.
  • Hypertensive heart disease - caused by high blood pressure, especially localized high blood pressure. Conditions that can be caused by hypertensive heart disease include: Left ventricular hypertrophy, Coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, hypertensive cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmias
  • Inflammatory heart disease - involves inflammation of the heart muscle and/or the tissue surrounding it.
  • Endocarditis - inflammation of the inner lining of the heart, the endocardium. The most common structures involved are the heart valves.
  • Inflammatory cardiomegaly
  • Myocarditis - inflammation of the myocardium, the muscular part of the heart.
  • Valvular heart disease - any disease process involving one or more valves of the heart. The valves in the right side of the heart are the tricuspid valve and the pulmonic valve. The valves in the left side of the heart are the mitral valve and the aortic valve. Inflammation of valves can lead to scarring and atheromatoous plaque can limit their mobility, both conditions can possbily lead to regurgitation (blood flowign the wrong direction) thus making the heart work harder.


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The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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