Heart disease is a term that includes several more specific heart conditions. The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack. The risk of coronary heart disease can be reduced by taking steps to prevent and control those adverse factors that put people at greater risk for heart disease and heart attack. Additionally, knowing the signs and symptoms of heart attack, calling 911 right away, and getting to a hospital are crucial to the most positive outcomes after having a heart attack. People who have had a heart attack can also work to reduce their risk of future events.
CHD is the most common type of heart disease. CHD occurs when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed due to the plaque buildup. The plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis. Plaques are a mixture of fatty substances including cholesterol and other lipids. Blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart can be reduced or even fully blocked with a growing plaque. Plaques may also rupture and cause blood clots that block arteries. CHD can lead to a heart attack or angina , a chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood. Over time, CHD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure, a serious problem where the heart cannot pump blood the way that it should. Also, irregular heart beats, called arrhythmias, can develop. For persons with CHD, treatment will involve addressing those factors that put them at risk for CHD and heart attack. The doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help reduce risk. Medicines and medical treatments may be needed. Medicines are available to treat high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, blood flow, and other potential problems. Some advanced treatments and surgical procedures may be used to help restore blood flow to the heart muscle.
If the blood supply to the heart is severely reduced or completely blocked, heart muscle cells may not receive enough oxygen and begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. This damage can cause irregular heart rhythms or even sudden cardiac arrest or stopping of the heart beat. Death can result. Coronary artery disease is the chief underlying cause of a heart attack. A less common cause of a heart attack is a severe spasm of a coronary artery that reduces the blood supply to the heart. A heart attack survivor may have a damaged heart that affects the heart rhythm, pumping action, and blood circulation. This puts heart attack victims at greater risk of having another heart attack or other events such as a stroke, kidney problems, and peripheral arterial problems. Cardiac rehabilitation is usually recommended for heart attack survivors after the emergency event has stabilized. Cardiac rehabilitation guides the patient to make changes that can help improve cardiovascular fitness and quality of life. These changes may include dietary changes, physical activity, smoking cessation, and other issues such as medication schedules and stress management. Heart attack survivors should seek their doctor's advice about daily activities such as returning to work, driving, physical and sexual activity, and air travel.
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