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Heart Conditions

Angina
Angina occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle cells is not enough to
meet its energy needs. It causes pain and aches across the chest, down the arm, into
the neck, or into the back. Angina can be caused due to excessive exercise and will
most likely subside when the body takes a rest. Symptoms vary throughout patients
and some patients might not even have any symptoms. The most common reason a
patient complains of angina is because of narrowed coronary arteries caused by
atherosclerotic heart disease. Some other symptoms of this condition are shortness
of breath with exercise, malaise, fatigue, and weakness. Treatment of angina is
varied based on the cause of it. If the cause is excessive exercise, rest can be a
treatment. If the cause is atherosclerotic heart disease, medication is the treatment.
Nitroglycerin medications can be taken to dilate coronary arteries and increase
blood flow to the heart muscle or to abort an episode of angina.

Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, means the high tension in the arteries,
which are the vessels carrying blood from the pumping heart to all the tissues and
organs of the body. This condition can cause cardiac disease, kidney disease,
atherosclerosis, eye damage, and stroke. This disease has no symptoms other than
the common headache or dizziness. Causes for hypertension include a large intake
of salt, genetic factors, obesity, lack of exercise, and aging. Treatment of
hypertension includes a variety of medications. To prevent hypertension and help
treat it, you should maintain normal body weight based on your height, reduce
dietary sodium intake, engage in regular exercise, limit alcohol consumption, and
consume a diet rich of fruits and vegetables. You should take your blood pressure
regularly to make sure you dont have hypertension and put yourself at risk to have
a stroke.

Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries and it slowly
blocks arteries, which puts blood flow at risk. This condition is the leading cause of
heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases, which are the number 1
killer in America. This condition is caused when high blood pressure, smoking, or
high cholesterol damages the endothelium and cholesterol plaque formation forms.
Once the narrowing become severe, they can choke off the blood flow and the
blockages can suddenly rupture, which will cause blood to clot inside an artery at
the site of the rupture. Some symptoms include chest pain, rapid breathing,
numbness in arms and legs and garbled speech. Some other risk factors include
diabetes, obesity, advanced age, and family history of heart disease. The main
treatments of this condition are therapy and lifestyle changes. Doctors might also
prescribe aspirin to inhibit blood clots. To prevent the complications of
atherosclerosis, surgeries may be performed. Eating more seafood, fruits, and
vegetables can help improve this condition as will exercising regularly and
reducing alcohol intakes.

Myocardial Infarction
This condition is more commonly known as a heart attack. The heart has two
arteries that deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. If one of the arteries or
branches becomes blocked suddenly, cardiac ischemia occurs, which is when a
portion of the heart is missing oxygen. If this lasts too long, the starved heart tissue
will die and this is a heart attack. Signs of a heart attack include chest pain,
shortness of breath, dizziness, faintness, and nausea. An early sign of a heart attack
is if you experience episodes of angina, which is chest pain that is provoked by
ischemia. About 25% of all heart attacks occur without any previous warning
signs. Many heart attack victims die before they reach the hospital and those who
make it suffer life threatening complications in the hospital. Those who survive the
initial attack and dont have major problems a few hours later have a better chance
of a full recovery. People who survive might experience heart failure, arrhythmias,
cardiac arrest, cardiogenic shock, or death later on. Treatments of this condition
include providing cardiac resuscitation to keep the patient alive, immediate

hospitalization, treat life threatening problems, remove pain, and preserve as much
myocardium as possible by dissolution of blood clots. Therapy is recommended if
you survive the heart attack.

Arrhythmia
An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. It is caused by many factors,
including coronary artery disease, heart attack, and changes in your heart muscle.
There are different types of this condition, including premature atrial contractions,
atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, and heart block. These all have to do with or cause
an irregular heartbeat. Symptoms of this disease may include, palpitations, heart
pounding, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. In order
to diagnose an arrhythmia, doctors have tests, such as an electrocardiogram, holter
monitor, echocardiogram, or a stress test. Treatments can include medications,
lifestyle changes, or surgeries. The medications include antiarrhythmic drugs and
antiplatelet therapy. Lifestyle changes include stop smoking, limit alcohol intake,
limit use of caffeine, and stay away from stimulants used in cough and cold
medications.

Murmur
A heart murmur is a continuous sound that is audible with a common
stethoscope. It is caused when blood passes through particular areas of the heart.
The sound of a murmur is produced when blood flow isnt smooth and turbulence
occurs. Heart murmurs are not all abnormal or dangerous but it may signal
abnormality of the heart. A functional heart murmur is harmless and occurs when
blood rushes through the heart quickly during normal function. A fever, anemia,
hyperthyroidism, and pregnancy can lead to an innocent murmur. Congenital heart
murmurs can be heard in newborns and may be due to abnormalities in the valves,
arteries, and veins that carry blood to and from the heart. Some congenital heart
murmurs resolve by themselves while others require surgeries to repair. Patent
ductus arteriosus, which is when the ductus doesnt completely close after birth,
can cause murmurs. Risk factors for murmurs include heart disease, heart attack,

aortic aneurysm, and connective tissue disorders. Symptoms of murmurs are chest
pain, shortness of breath, swelling of the extremities, and palpitations. Most
murmurs dont require any treatment but some require antibiotics for infected
valves while others require surgery for structurally damaged valves.

Atrial Septal Defect


An atrial septal defect is a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers
of your heart. This is present from birth and smaller atrial septal defect may close
on their own during infancy or early childhood. Larger atrial septal defect can
damage your heart and lungs and adults who have it may have a shortened life span
due to heart failure or high blood pressure in the lungs. Babies born with this
condition dont have symptoms but adults usually have heart murmurs, shortness
of breath, fatigue, swelling of legs, feet, or abdomen, heart palpitations, frequent
lung infections, stroke, or bluish skin color. If you have any of these symptoms, be
sure to contact your doctor. Heart defects present at birth are from errors early in
the hearts development, but there is usually no clear cause. Family history and
genetics may also play a role. When women have rubella infection or do drugs or
alcohol, it increases the chance of having a baby with atrial septal defect. Larger
defects can cause right-sided heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities, shortened
life expectancy, and increased risk of a stroke. All of these complications are mild
to life-threatening. Medication can be used to reduce the symptoms but it wont
close the hole and drugs can be used to reduce the risk of complications after
surgery. Surgery can repair the hole by plugging or patching the abnormal opening
between the atria through cardiac catheterization or open heart surgery.

Ventricular Septal Defect


This condition is a hole in the wall between the right and left ventricles of
the heart. This is found most often in infants and they develop it before birth. This
causes the ventricles to work harder as they pump a greater amount of blood than
usual. The cause of this is usually unknown but they might come from a
malformation of the heart that occurs while the infant is developing in the womb.

The most common type of this defect is the membranous variant, which is when
the hole is located below the aortic valve that controls flow of blood from the left
ventricle into the aorta. Symptoms of this defect include rapid breathing, sweating,
pallor, fast heartbeats, decreased feeding, poor weight gain, fainting, and chest
pain. In most cases of this defect, it will close on its own as the child grows.
Doctors may prescribe medication to decrease the symptoms, such as vasodilators,
digoxin, or Lasix. Larger ventricular septal defects dont close on its own so
surgery is required to repair it.

Blood Flow
There are different steps for how blood flows in the heart. To begin the
process, oxygen-poor blood from the body enters the right atrium. The SA node
signals the atria to contract, and blood flows into the right ventricle. When the AV
node signals the ventricles to contract, blood is pumped from the right ventricle
into the pulmonary artery. The blood enters the lungs, where the carbon dioxide
and water vapor diffuse into the alveoli and oxygen diffuses into the blood.
Oxygen-rich blood returns to the heart through the pulmonary vein and enters the
left atrium. As the atria contract, blood is pumped into the left ventricle. When the
ventricle contract, blood is pumped from the left ventricle into the aorta and is
circulated to the rest of the body. After oxygen has been delivered the cells, the
oxygen-poor blood returns through the veins to the heart, and the whole sequence
starts over again.