Heart disease is a serious condition that can affect anyone, from any walk of life, and at almost any age – although older people are more susceptible than younger people. Heart disease is more likely to affect people who are overweight or obese, and those who smoke cigarettes or drink large amounts of alcohol.
Heart disease can take many different forms, but most are associated with a condition called atherosclerosis. This is a condition which involves plaque building up on the walls of your arteries, making them get narrower, and making it more difficult for blood to flow efficiently. Over time, this increases the risk of blood clots forming – a blood clot can stop blood from flowing through the arteries, and this can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
Heart attacks happen if a part of the heart is starved of blood. If the blood clot actually cuts off the entire blood supply to that part of the heart, then it will begin to die off. Thanks to modern medicine, most people are lucky enough to survive their first heart attack, and if they make the right lifestyle changes, they can enjoy many more years of a normal life. It is important that you listen to your doctor if you have a heart attack, though, because they will tell you how badly damaged your heart is, and your risk of future heart attacks.
A stroke is a different kind of cardiovascular event. Ischemic strokes are the most common – thy occur if a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that supplies the brain. Just like the heart, the brain needs a consistent blood supply to provide it with oxygen, and if it is starved, then it will start to die off. The symptoms of a stroke will vary depending on which part of the brain is affected, but the end result will be that the sufferer will be unable to carry out whatever functions that part of the brain was responsible for – some people lose control of one side of the body, some people lose the ability to speak, or lose fine motor control, for example. If the stroke is diagnosed quickly and the blood supply is restored, then the sufferer may be lucky enough to recover and regain many of those functions. In some cases, with careful rehabilitation a stroke sufferer can relearn lost skills.
Another form of heart disease is congestive heart failure. This differs from a heart attack in that the heart is still pumping, but just not as effectively as it should be. With congestive heart failure, the body’s blood supply and oxygen needs are not being met properly. Heart failure can be managed, but it is important that it is caught early and that the patient follows the instructions of their doctor carefully. The same is true for other, less common issues such as arrhythmia (an abnormal heart beat) and heart valve related issues.