Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of heart attacks. A heart attack is when the blood supply to the heart itself is reduced or interrupted, causing part of the heart muscle to become redundant.
CHD is a condition in which the major blood vessels that supply the heart get clogged up with deposits of cholesterol, known as plaques. Cholesterol comes form food such as eggs but primarily is manufactured in our own livers when stresssed.
Before a heart attack, one of the plaques ruptures (bursts), causing a blood clot to develop at the site of the rupture. The clot may block the supply of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack.
Complications of a heart attack can be serious and possibly life-threatening. These include:
arrhythmia – this is an abnormal heartbeat, where the heart begins beating faster and faster, then stops beating (cardiac arrest)
cardiogenic shock – where the heart's muscles are severely damaged and can no longer contract properly to supply enough blood to maintain many body functions
heart rupture – where the heart's muscles, walls or valves split apart (rupture)
These complications can occur quickly after a heart attack and are a leading cause of death.
Angina is usually caused by the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscles becoming narrowed by a build-up of fatty substances.
This is called atherosclerosis. The symptoms of angina will include a tightening of the chest, chest pain and breathlessness.
There are 2 main types of angina resulting in a diagnosis of either:
stable angina (this id more common) – angina attacks have a trigger (such as stress or exercise) and stop within a few minutes of resting
unstable angina (more serious) – attacks are more unpredictable (they may not have a trigger) and can continue despite resting
Some people develop unstable angina after having stable angina.
Our heart has valves to prevent blood from back flowing from one side of the heart to the other which stops oxygenated blooed mixing with carbon dioxide rich blood. If one or more of your heart valves becomes damaged or diseased, it can affect the flow of blood through your heart. Treatment is either with medication or surgery.
A diseased or damaged valve can affect the flow of blood in two ways:
If the valve does not open fully, it will obstruct or restrict the flow of blood. This is called valve stenosis or narrowing. This can put extra strain on your heart, making it pump harder to force the blood past the narrowing.
If the valve does not close properly, it will allow blood to leak backwards. This is called valve incompetence or regurgitation or a leaky valve. This can put extra strain on your heart and may mean that your heart has to do extra work to pump the required volume of blood.
The main causes of heart valve disease are: being born with an abnormal valve or valves (congenital heart disease), having had rheumatic fever, cardiomyopathy - a disease of the heart muscle, damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack, getting older, a previous infection with endocarditis.
There are many other cardiovascular diseases. You can find more information on The Cardiovasular system here
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