Your heart is a powerful pump. The muscular organ sends oxygen and nutrients through the bloodstream for the organs, tissues, and cells to function. What happens when a disease interrupts this process? The effects are felt throughout the body.
Heart disease can manifest to affect different parts of the body.
1.- Coronary artery disease
Plaque, made up of fats (lipids), calcium, and other materials, can build up on blood vessels' walls.
When plaque completely clogs the coronary arteries or cannot supply enough oxygen to fuel the heart, a heart attack occurs. Part of the heart muscle dies.
Medications can help lower blood lipids and fats and lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of a heart attack.
A balloon-tipped catheter inserted into the narrow coronary artery can open it and restore blood flow. "Oftentimes, a small metal frame (stent) is used to keep the container open.
Replacement surgery can save diseased coronary artery vessels with chest, leg, or arm artery transplants, again supplying oxygen and nutrients to the heart tissue.
Electricity feeds your heart. The impulses synchronize each heartbeat to move blood from the heart's filling chambers (atria) to its pumping chambers (ventricles), then to the lungs and body, and vice versa.
If this electrical path is disturbed, the impulses can fail or go the wrong way. Your heart may beat too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia), or it may be shaking (fibrillation). Bradycardia makes you feel dizzy and lightheaded. Tachycardia causes these symptoms in addition to palpitations and fatigue.
Untreated arrhythmias increase the risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death.
Solution: In bradycardia, the implantation of a pacemaker sends electrical impulses to help the heart race.
For atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia, medications help control the heart rhythm and prevent dangerous blood clots. We can also ablate and deliver energy through a catheter to break abnormal electrical pathways.
Serious ventricular arrhythmias are usually treated with medication or ablation as long as the heart is not failing. If the heart fails, a defibrillator is implanted to restore rhythm each time a ventricular arrhythmia occurs.
3.- Valve disease
Valves keep blood in one direction through the atria and ventricles. As each chamber fills with blood, a valve opens; when each chamber empties, it closes.
Damage from infections, structural changes, or birth defects can narrow or leak a valve, causing the heart to pump less blood and work harder to meet the body's needs.
Shortness of breath, chest pain, gas, tiredness, and dizziness can affect daily life.
Solution: Giving medicine can improve symptoms; however, it does not cure the problem. Valve disease does not go away; faulty valves need to be repaired or replaced.
Repair is ideal. It preserves the heart muscle's strength and is less likely to cause infections or require lifelong blood thinners. If that is not possible, faulty valves can be exchanged for mechanical or biological valves.
When surgery is too risky, doctors use a catheter-based method to repair, replace, or "clamp" leaking valves from inside the heart.
4.- Heart failure
Over time, coronary artery disease and other heart conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can weaken the heart.
The heart's ability to move blood through your body can suddenly deteriorate even after a heart attack or infection.
Heart failure can cause one or both ventricles to become severely weak or stiff, causing them to contract and fill poorly.
Some symptoms such as shortness of breath on exertion, inflammation, fatigue, or mental slowness can affect your quality of life.
Solution: Doctors treat any underlying disease with medications or bypass surgery, valve surgery, or catheter treatments to improve blood flow.
Medications can stimulate heart function by dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure, and helping the kidneys remove excess fluid.
Pacemakers improve the electrical function of faltering ventricles. Implantable defibrillators can prevent arrhythmia and sudden death.
If all else does not improve the situation, implantable left ventricular assist devices and heart transplants are possible options for select patients.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and drinking moderately will help you feel better and have a better life quality.
It is essential to consult a Cardiology specialist to diagnose heart disease and to be able to start a treatment that helps you control your symptoms.
At the time of consulting your Cardiologist, try to keep a record of your pain with a detailed description of the symptoms, duration, and what you think triggered them. Also, mention any medications you are taking.
In case of breathing difficulties, chest pain for several minutes or fainting, you should go to the emergency room. You can go directly to the BlueNetHospitals Emergency Room in Los Cabos or call an ambulance at 624 1043 911.
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