Cardio-vascular diseases (Types, Causes and Prevention)

  • Many diseases affect the blood vessels and the heart.
  • These include hypertensive heart diseases, coronary heart diseases, rheumatic heart diseases, heart block and stroke.
  • A notable feature these days is that the younger people are increasingly being affected by such diseases.
  1. Hypertensive heart diseases: It includes the following types:
  • Arteriosclerosis (Greek; arteria=artery, sclerosis hardness):
    • The arteries and the arterioles become hard and thick and eventually lose their elasticity.
    • It causes hypertension or high blood pressure.
    • In this disease, calcium salts precipitate with the cholesterol of the formed or forming plaque (a sticky deposit).
    • This deposition ultimately makes the wall of arteries stiff and rigid which lose the property of distension and may rupture.
    • The blood from such ruptured vessels may clot and block the blood flow.
    • Such a clot in a coronary artery may lead to a heart attack or even death.
  • Atheroma (Greek; athere= deposit of pasty material, oma=tumor):
    • In Atheroma or atherosclerosis the arteries and arterioles get narrower due to the deposition of fats, including cholesterol on their inner lining, i.e in the tunica interna and the smooth muscles.
    • These deposition or plaques grow gradually leading to the decrease in the lumen of the artery.
    • Since same amount of blood is being pushed through narrow tubes, it leads to high blood pressure.
    • The formation of plaques in coronary arteries may result in heart attack due to complete blockage.
    • High blood plasma concentration of LDL (low density lipoproteins) may lead to atherosclerosis.
    • This makes the inner surface of the arteries irregular that may cause clot formation, or
  • Hypertension:
    • Nervous tension and emotional stress (fear, worry, anxiety, anger, excitement, physical stress, and excessive joy) cause contraction of the arteries.
    • Frequent tension or stress results in persistent high blood pressure which is more than 120/80 mm of Hg called hypertension.
    • High blood pressure is a silent killer as there is no any initial symptom of it and slowly damages the cardiovascular system of the body.
    • It damages the arteries in the kidneys, causing a serious disease called chronic nephritis.
    • It may rupture arteries in the eye, causing blindness; or in the brain, causing temporary or permanent paralysis called stroke.
    • To some extent, the tendency to develop hypertension is inherited.
  1. Coronary heart diseases:
    • Coronary arteries supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle.
    • Unhealthy coronary arteries cause heart diseases which include the following types:Angina pectoris and heart attack.

Angina Pectoris:

  • Angina pectoris literally means “Pain in the chest” which results from arteriosclerosis in coronary arteries that supply to the heart muscle itself.
  • These arteries are unable to carry extra blood to the heart muscle at the time of stress when the heart is beating more vigorously.
  • Deprived of oxygen, the heart muscle experiences constricting pain which passes off quickly if medicines are taken.
  • However, pain due to angina pectoris is a warning of heart attack.

Heart attack:

  • Formation of a clot or thrombus in a narrowed coronary artery stops blood supply to the part of the heart muscle beyond the clot.
  • The cells die due to lack of oxygen and glucose which leads to heart attack (coronary thrombosis or myocardial infarction (MI)).
  • It may prove fatal if no electrical impulse is conducted through cardiac muscle and the heart stops beating.
  • The heart attack is characterized by severe pain in the heart, breathlessness, restlessness, nausea and vomiting.
  • The transported clot which is taken elsewhere from the place of formation by blood stream that will obstruct the blood flow is called embolus.
  1. Rheumatic heart disease:
  • Rheumatic heart diseases are common in children under 20 years of age.
  • This results from repeated attacks of rheumatic fever in childhood which is caused by the infection of the throat with the bacterium Streptococcus.
  • Bacterial infection may reach the heart and the bacterial toxins affect the auriculo-ventricular valves.
  • The valves develop two defects:
    • failure to close completely
    • narrowing of the openings they surround
  • This makes the function of the valves irregular and lowers the blood pressure.
  • Damage to the heart valves is detectable by a modified heart sound called a murmur and the heart is said to be rheumatic.
  • A serious damage to the valves greatly increases the chance of congestive heart failure in which the blood is forced back into the auricles when the ventricles contract.
  • A person with rheumatic heart is advised adequate rest.
  • Rheumatic heart disease nowadays is said to be caused by a Coxsackie virus and Streptococcus acts as a conditioning agent.

Causes of heart diseases:

  • High blood pressure of hypertension
  • Increased serum(blood) cholesterol
  • Infection of respiratory tract
  • Sedentary habit
  • Heavy smoking and alcoholism
  • Malfunctioning of thyroid gland
  • Congenital defects in the heart

Preventive measures of heart diseases:

  • Avoid tension and stress by trying to keep cool in all circumstances
  • Avoid saturated fats, especially after 35 years of age, to keep cholesterol level of blood low
  • Avoid becoming overweight and obese
  • Avoid sedentary habit and take light exercise daily
  • Quit smoking, drinking and use of drugs
  • Take preventive measures against infections of respiratory tract
  • Consult a doctor in case of any chest pain