When it comes to matters of the heart, things can get complicated. No, we don’t mean romantic or relationship issues – though those can be complicated, too. We mean heart health and heart conditions.
It’s obvious you need a healthy heart to live a full, happy life, but do you know exactly what your heart does? Your heart is a muscle that provides your body with oxygen and nutrients and carries away waste.
The right side of your heart receives blood from your body and pumps it to your lungs, while the left side receives blood from the lungs and pumps it into your body.
If your heart fails, for any reason, it can be catastrophic, even resulting in death. Taking care of your heart is vital.
Sometimes, however, either from lack of awareness, hereditary issues, or not taking proper care of yourself, dangerous heart conditions can arise. There are numerous signs, symptoms, and risk factors that you should be aware of to ensure your heart is healthy.
So, ask yourself: are you aware of the signs of heart conditions?
Do you know what to look for when considering your heart’s health?
Are you able to reverse heart conditions once you’ve contracted them?
We’ve got the answer to all those questions and more below. We’ll teach you the signs and symptoms you should look out for, explain ways that your doctors can test and diagnose your issues, and what you can do to prevent heart conditions.
Early Signs of Heart Conditions
When it comes to heart conditions, there are variety of different signs and symptoms your should be on the lookout for. Additionally, there are numerous risk factors that go into heart conditions, as well as a number of distinct types of heart problems you could be dealing with.
We’ll break down a few important early signs you should watch for, but first, let’s get a few terms out of the way to help you have a better understanding of what to watch for.
Congestive Heart Failure: a condition when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as it should, which can be caused by narrowed arteries, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and more
Artery Blockage: the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) overtime that results in a hardening of the inner walls of your arteries and can lead to blockages in arteries.
Heart Attack: a sudden, and sometimes fatal occurrence of coronary distress that typically results in the death of part of the heart muscle. This occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely.
Signs and Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common symptoms of heart failure, heart malfunction, and blocked arteries can include mild, seemingly harmless signs like:
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of appetite, nausea
- A hard time concentrating
- A decrease in alertness
These symptoms, when experienced separately, are hardly something to rush to the E.R. about. However, a combination of these symptoms might mean that something is up with your heart.
Some of these conditions can occur because of blood backing up in the pulmonary veins, causing fluid to leak into the lungs. This, in turn, can diminish the capacity of your heart to pump blood throughout your body.
There are bigger, more alarming signs that are associated with heart failure and heart conditions, though. You might be suffering from heart failure or a heart condition if you experience things like:
- Sudden swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Abdomen swelling
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent coughing, wheezing, or bloody phlegm
- Chest and arm pains
Heart failure, and most heart conditions, in general, require immediate medical attention. If you or someone you know is experiencing a combination of these symptoms, seek medical help right away.
Risk Factors In Heart Conditions
Sometimes heart conditions are hereditary, but you can develop them as a result of certain behaviors or habits. If individuals in your family have heart conditions or diseases, you may be more likely to develop them as well. It’s important to check with your doctor, get your heart tested, and determine your heart health.
There are particular risk factors that put people at a higher likelihood of developing heart conditions or undergoing congestive heart failure. The Mayo Clinic notes that high blood pressure can play a major role in heart failure since your heart has to work much harder if your blood pressure is high.
Additionally, you’re more likely to develop heart conditions if you’re diabetic, overweight, or obese. The larger and heavier a person is, the more strain is being put on their heart. It raises blood cholesterol, increases their blood pressure, and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes — all factors that can lead to heart failure.
Other behaviors like smoking, drug, and alcohol abuse can put you at a higher risk for heart failure as well.
Taking certain medications can also put you at increased risk of heart problems, too. Some anesthesia medications, as well as urological and neurological medications, can increase your chances of heart problems
Diagnosis of Heart Conditions
In order to diagnose you with certain heart conditions, your doctor will have to run various tests, check your symptoms, and probably get a full-family medical history.
Some of the most common tests for heart conditions are electrocardiogram tests, Holter monitoring, echocardiogram tests, stress tests, and cardiac catheterizations.
Tests like ECGs and Echocardiograms are non-invasive tests that will either:
- Record the electrical signs your heart is giving off (ECG) to check for irregularities in its rhythm and structure
- Take an ultrasound of your chest (echocardiogram) to show detailed images of your heart’s structure and function.
Another non-invasive test is the Holter monitoring test. With this test, you wear a portable device to monitor your heart’s rhythm for irregularities that aren’t found during an ECG exam. This test usually lasts somewhere between 24-72 hours.
A stress test is also a non-invasive test in which you wear a heart monitor while you do something that increases your heart rate, like exercise or taking a specific medication.
Other tests, like cardiac catheterization, require a bit more of an invasive approach. A catheter is a short tube that is inserted into a vein or an artery in your groin or your arm, and a then hollow, flexible tube is inserted in after it.
This will provide your doctor with x-ray images that can help guide the tube through your artery until it reaches your heart. Once it reaches the heart, he can measure the pressure in your heart chambers and inject a dye that can help him measure your blood flow and identify any blocks or potential problems with your heart.
Heart Condition Treatment and Prevention
When it comes down to treatment and prevention, you’re probably going to have to be lifestyle changes. Though it will vary depending on your condition, your doctors will probably recommend altering your diet (low-fat or low-sodium), exercising moderately for 30 minutes daily, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking.
It’s also likely that your doctor will place you on medications to help control your heart condition. The type of medicine will depend largely on the heart condition you have. The goal of your lifestyle changes is to reduce the risk factors and to help slow or reverse the buildup of plaque in your arteries, prevent further complications, widen your arteries, and relieve your symptoms.
If the problems are severe, you may have to undergo a medical procedure or surgery to correct the problem. The type of procedure will be specific to the type of heart disease, the heart condition, or the damage your heart has experienced.
Heart Health and You
There are many factors and causes that could be at fault when it comes to heart health. It’s important to stay away from risk-factors that could increase your chance of contracting heart conditions (like smoking, drinking, and being overweight). It also essential to regularly check in with your doctor for regular heart check-ups, as well as be in-the-know about symptoms and signs that you might be experiencing heart failure, artery blockages, or other heart conditions.