Heart Smart-Cardiovascular Health Conditions

Cardiovascular Health Conditions

Think a heart attack is the only cardiovascular condition you need to worry about? Think again. Any disease of the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular) is called cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Many of these conditions have similar names, like heart failure and heart attack, bradycardia and tachycardia. It can be hard to keep them all straight. This article will help you sort out some of the differences among the most common types of cardiovascular disease.

Problems with the Heart's Arteries

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart disease: Fatty plaque builds up in one or more coronary arteries, so less blood flows through to the heart muscle. CAD increases your risk for a heart attack.
  • Heart attack: A part of the heart muscle dies or is permanently damaged because it didn't get enough blood due to plaque buildup in your coronary arteries. Once your heart is damaged, you're at higher risk for heart failure and sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Problems with the Heart's Electrical System

  • Atrial fibrillation: An abnormally fast and chaotic heartbeat in the heart's atria (upper chambers). During atrial fibrillation, the atria are trying to beat so fast—over 200-300 beats per minute—that they quiver rather than pump the blood as they should. This doesn't allow enough time for the atria to fill with blood before the blood is pumped into the lower chambers.
  • Bradycardia: The heart beats more slowly than normal – usually less than 60 beats per minute. As a result, your heart may not pump enough blood to meet your body's needs, and you may feel tired or dizzy.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA): The heart develops a lethal rhythm and stops beating and pumping blood. This sudden and unexpected medical emergency will end in death if not treated quickly.
  • Tachycardia: The heart beats more quickly than normal – usually more than 100 beats per minute. As a result, your heart may not pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. If left untreated, some types of tachycardia can lead to sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Problems with the Heart's Pumping Ability

  • Heart failure: The heart doesn't work as well as it should, so it is unable to pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. Heart failure is a serious problem that develops gradually over time in a damaged

Problems with the Arteries Outside the Heart

  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Fatty plaque builds up in an artery outside your heart, so less blood flows through to your body. Depending on which artery is blocked, this can cause minor symptoms, like numbness, or a major problem, like a stroke.

More Heart Conditions

Remember, the summaries above just cover some of the most common cardiovascular conditions. There are still more health concerns related to the heart, including angina, valve disease, diabetes and stroke. Visit Boston Scientific's patient resource, Heartistry, to learn about these conditions and more.

Learn about more heart conditions 

Source content for this article was provided by LifeBeat and Heartistry, two patient education resources from Boston Scientific. Learn more at www.lifebeatonline.com and www.heartistryforme.com.

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