Cardiovascular (heart) diseases: types and treatments


What are cardiovascular diseases?

Cardiovascular disease is a condition that affects the structures or function of your heart, such as:

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is important to learn about your heart to help prevent them. If you have it, you can lead healthier, more active lives by learning about your illness and taking care of yourself.

The types of cardiovascular disease can have a variety of causes, so it’s important to know the difference.

Abnormal heart rhythms

The heart is an extraordinary organ. It beats at a steady, steady pace, about 60 to 100 times per minute. That’s about 100,000 times a day. Sometimes your heart loses its beat. Your doctor calls an irregular or abnormal heart rhythm an arrhythmia. Arrhythmia (also called dysrhythmia) can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heartbeat that is too slow or too fast.

Aortic disease and Marfan syndrome

The aorta is the large artery that leaves your heart and carries oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. Both of these conditions can cause the aorta to widen or tear. This increases the chances of things like:

If you have aortic disease, you will need a team of specialists and surgeons to participate in your treatment.


It is the term for diseases of the heart muscle. They are sometimes simply referred to as an enlarged heart. People with these conditions have unusually large, thick, or stiff hearts. Their heart cannot pump blood as well as it should. Without treatment, cardiomyopathies worsen. They can lead to heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Cardiomyopathy can sometimes be familial, but it can also be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, metabolic diseases or infections.

Congenital heart disease

This is a problem in one or more parts of the heart or blood vessels. It happens before birth.

About 8 in 1000 children get it. They may have symptoms at birth, but some people with the condition do not have symptoms until childhood or even adulthood.

In most cases, we don’t know why this is happening. Genes can play a role, or it can happen if a baby is exposed to viral infections, alcohol, or drugs before birth.

Coronary artery disease

You can hear this called CAD. It’s when plaque builds up and hardens the arteries that give your heart oxygen and essential nutrients. This hardening is also called atherosclerosis.

Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism

Blood clots can form in your deep veins, usually in your legs. It is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). They can break off and pass through your bloodstream to your lungs, where they can block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism. It is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

You may be at higher risk for DVT because of your genes or family history. Other things that can increase the risk include sitting for a long time, such as in a car or on an airplane; long-term bed rest; pregnancy; and the use of birth control pills or hormone substitutes.

Heart failure

This term can be scary. This does not mean that your heart has “failed” or has stopped working. This means that your heart is not pumping as hard as it should. This will cause your body to retain salt and water, which will give you swelling and shortness of breath.

Heart failure is a major health problem in the United States, affecting more than 6.5 million people. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people over 65.

The number of people diagnosed with heart failure is expected to increase 46% by 2030, according to the American Heart Association.

Heart valve disease

diseases affecting the heart and cardiovascular system

Your valves are located at the exit from each of your four heart chambers. They circulate blood through your heart.

Sometimes there are problems with these valves. The following are examples of heart valve problems:

Aortic stenosis. Your aortic valve is narrowing. It slows down the blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body.

Mitral valve insufficiency. Your mitral valve is not closing tightly enough. This causes blood to leak backwards, causing fluid to build up in the lungs.

Mitral valve prolapse. The valve between your upper left and lower left chambers is not closing properly.


This condition is rare and means that the lining around your heart is inflamed. An infection often causes this.

Rheumatic heart disease

It happens when rheumatic fever, a most common inflammatory disease in children, damages your heart valves.

Rheumatic fever begins with untreated strep throat and can affect many parts of your child’s body. If your doctor thinks your child may have had rheumatic fever, they will do a physical exam and do tests, including x-rays and EKGs, to look for damage to the heart.


Strokes happen when something slows down or blocks blood flow to your brain. Your brain cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, and brain cells start to die. When blood cannot reach the part of your brain that controls a certain function, your body is not functioning as it should.

A stroke can happen because of a blocked artery or a leaking or bursting blood vessel. It requires immediate treatment to limit brain damage and other complications.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability and one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Other vascular diseases

Your circulatory system is made up of vessels that carry blood to all parts of your body.

Vascular disease includes any condition that affects your circulatory system. These include diseases of the arteries that go to your legs (peripheral vascular disease) and slow blood flow to your brain, causing strokes.

Treatments for cardiovascular disease

Treatments for cardiovascular disease may differ depending on the type of disease. Yours may include:

  • Changes in parts of your lifestyle such as how you eat, exercise, and use alcohol and tobacco
  • Medicines, including those that treat risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol or to break up blood clots
  • Medical procedures such as placing a balloon or stent in your blood vessel, heart valve surgery, or coronary artery bypass grafting.


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