Heart attacks (“myocardial infarction,” or MI) occur when blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or stopped. They most commonly are the result of hardening and narrowing of coronary arteries due to a build-up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances (“plaque”). Blood clots form around the plaque, thereby blocking the flow of blood, which causes permanent damage or death of part of the heart muscle.
A heart arrhythmia is a change in the normal rhythm of a heartbeat involving electrical impulses. Arteries and blockages are not involved in an arrhythmia. When the electrical impulses are altered, they may be too fast, too slow, or irregular. It in turn causes the heart’s beats to match the change in impulses. If this occurs and the heart does not beat the way it should, it is unable to pump blood effectively to the organs of the body, particularly the lungs and brain, which can be a risk factor for them to shut down or become damaged.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary Artery Disease is a cardiovascular disease that involves atherosclerosis, which is hardening and narrowing of coronary arteries. CAD produces blockages in these vessels that transport blood to the heart. It occurs over a period of time. As it does, arteries are slowly blocked, which eventually restricts blood flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis is a common cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Heart failure is a condition when the heart’s ability to pump is weaker than normal. However, it does not mean that the heart has completely stopped functioning. Heart failure causes blood to move through the heart and body slower than normal, and pressure in the heart increases, so it is unable to supply sufficient amounts of blood and oxygen to the body’s cells. This results in fatigue and shortness of breath.
Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects (CHD) are present at birth, abnormalities occurring while a fetus is developing. They are not diseases. Leaky heart valves and malformations in the walls that separate heart chambers are two examples of CHDs. Symptoms of some heart defects may be present at birth, and others may not be known until adulthood. The severity of a defect will determine whether or not treatment will be needed.
Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that causes the heart to become abnormally enlarged, thickened, or stiffened. It is a progressive disease, meaning it progresses or worsens over time. Cardiomyopathy restricts the ability of the heart muscle to pump blood effectively. Heart failure or arrhythmia are two conditions that can result from cardiomyopathy.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease is a type of vascular (affecting the circulatory system) disease that occurs when fat and cholesterol deposits (“plaque”) build up in the peripheral arteries. These arteries are located outside of the heart. The buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis) narrows the artery walls, causing a restriction of the amount of blood flowing to the body’s tissues. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, renal (kidney) artery disease, and other serious conditions, depending on the arteries in which the blockage occurs.