Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the most common chronic cardiovascular condition and is the leading cause of cardiovascular complications worldwide. High blood pressure occurs when blood flow exerts greater force than normal against the circulatory system, causing hardening of the vessels and increasing the heart’s workload. When blood pressure is not controlled, there is an increased risk of heart attacks, kidney disease and stroke.
Coronary artery disease describes the accumulation of cholesterol-filled plaque in the narrow arteries that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood. Symptoms of coronary artery disease include chest pain and shortness of breath, however it can presents asymptomatically.
Myocardial infarction, or heart attack, occurs when plaque stops blood flow to part of the heart muscle, resulting in muscle death. If diagnosed quickly, early interventions can return blood flow to the heart and halt the progression of the heart attack.
Heart failure is another common cardiac condition related to uncontrolled hypertension. Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump blood through the body. This can lead to fluid retention and fluid buildup in other life sustaining organs.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that causes the heart to become abnormally enlarged, thickened, and/or stiffened.
Heart rhythm disorders relate to the electric conduction of the heart and result in a disruption in the regular heartbeats. The heartbeat can become too fast, too slow, or irregular. These arrhythmias become more common with age.
Structural heart disorders describe irregularities in the anatomy of the heart. This can include heart valve disorders: the chambers of the heart are divided by valves which control blood flow from one part of the heart to another part of the heart or to the body. Stiffening or narrowing of these valves can adversely affect blood flow.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of a major blood vessel in the abdomen that carries a risk of rupture. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening all men who have ever smoked and are between 65 and 75. The test is a simple, one time abdominal ultrasound.
Inflammatory conditions can also affect the heart. Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium, a thin sac that surrounds the heart, and myocarditis is inflammation of the myocardium, the middle layer of the heart wall. These can occur for several reasons, including autoimmune diseases and viral illness.
Congenital heart disease is rare but important to follow throughout one’s lifetime. The heart's structure can be affected by abnormalities that occur before birth. These most likely resolve on their own, but need monitoring with age.
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