Also called: Cardiac diseases
If you’re like most people, you think that heart disease is a problem for others. But heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It’s the major reason people have heart attacks.
Other kinds of heart problems may happen to the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease.
You can help reduce your risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put you at greater risk:
• Control your blood pressure
• Lower your cholesterol
• Don’t smoke
• Get enough exercise
Also called: Valvular heart disease
Your heart has four valves. Normally, these valves open to let blood flow through or out of your heart, and then shut to keep it from flowing backward. But sometimes they don’t work properly. If they don’t, you could have
• Regurgitation – when blood leaks back through the valve in the wrong direction
• Mitral valve prolapse – when one of the valves, the mitral valve, has “floppy” flaps and doesn’t close tightly. It’s one of the most common heart valve conditions. Sometimes it causes regurgitation.
• Stenosis – when the valve doesn’t open enough and blocks blood flow
Valve problems can be present at birth or caused by infections, heart attacks, or heart disease or damage. The main sign of heart valve disease is an unusual heartbeat sound called a heart murmur. Your doctor can hear a heart murmur with a stethoscope. But many people have heart murmurs without having a problem. Heart tests can show if you have a heart valve disease. Some valve problems are minor and do not need treatment. Others might require medicine, medical procedures, or surgery to repair or replace the valve.