Now to Heart Matters

The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.” They are the conditions that affect the heart. These include blood vessel diseases such as coronary artery disease and heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). They’re generally conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or chest pain (angina). Other heart conditions such as those that affect the heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease. Before we look into these diseases, let’s discuss how the heart works.

How Does the Heart Work?


First, we’ll discuss chambers and valves of the heart.

Chambers and Valves of the Heart

The heart is a pump. Are you surprised? It really is. It’s a muscular organ about the size of a fist, situated just about the left angle of the center of the chest. The heart has two divisions — the right and the left sides. Why this division though? It prevents oxygen-rich blood from mixing with oxygen-poor blood. What happens to the oxygen-poor blood? It simply returns to the heart after circulating through the body.

So What’s on the Right Side of the Heart?

The right side of the heart comprises the right atrium and ventricle, and it collects and pumps blood to the lungs through the pulmonary arteries.
It’s one of the lungs’ functions to refresh the blood with a new supply of oxygen. Another is that the lungs breathe out carbon dioxide, which is a waste product.

What about the Left Side of the Heart?

Oxygen-rich blood then enters the left side of the heart, comprising the left atrium and ventricle.
It’s the left side of the heart that pumps blood through the aorta to supply tissues throughout the body with oxygen and nutrients.

Now to Heart Valves

There are four valves within the heart that keep blood moving the right way by opening only one way and only when they need to. For them to function properly, the valve must be formed properly, they must open all the way and lastly, they must close tightly so there’s no leakage. Isn’t the heart just an interesting organ? What are these four valves?

  • Tricuspid
  • Mitral
  • Pulmonary
  • Aortic

Symptoms and Causes of Various Heart Diseases

These symptoms vary by the type of heart disease experienced.

Symptoms of Heart Diseases in the Blood Vessels — Atherosclerotic Disease

The symptoms here may vary by gender. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain, while women are more likely to have other forms of chest discomfort such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue.
Generally, the symptoms are

  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Weakness and/or coldness in the legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of the body are narrowed
  • Pain in the neck, throat, jaw, upper abdomen or back
  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure
  • Chest tightness
  • Chest discomfort (angina)
  • Shortness of breath

It is important to report to your doctor if any of these is experienced, in order to avoid having to deal with a worsened condition.

Causes of Atherosclerotic Disease

Symptoms of Abnormal Heartbeats — Heart Arrhythmia

A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. In this case, the heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. It’s symptoms are

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
  • Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)

What Are its Causes?

Causes of Heart Arrhythmia

  • Common causes of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) are
  • Smoking
  • Excessive intake of alcohol or caffeine
  • Drug abuse
  • Stress
  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Some medications, dietary supplements, and herbal remedies

What about Congenital Heart Defects?

These occur from birth with symptoms evident in children. These symptoms are:

  • Swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes
  • Pale gray or blue skin color (cyanosis)
  • In an infant, shortness of breath during feeding is experienced.

Some congenital heart defects are not diagnosed until later years in childhood or even during adulthood. Symptoms of congenital heart defects that usually aren’t immediately life-threatening are

  • Being short of breath during physical activities
  • Getting tired easily
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet

Weak Heart Muscle — Dilated Cardiomyopathy

In the early stages of cardiomyopathy, there may be no symptoms. However, as the condition worsens, these symptoms may be noticed

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Frequent Fatigue
  • Rapid, pounding or fluttering heartbeats

What about Endocarditis?

Symptoms of Endocarditis, a Heart Infection

Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart (endocardium). Its symptoms are

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Swelling in your legs or abdomen
  • A dry or a persistent cough
  • Skin rashes or unusual spots
  • Fever
  • Changes in the heart rhythm

Now to Valvular Heart Disease

First, you should know (or be reminded) that the heart has four valves — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid valves — that open and close to direct blood flow through your heart. Some conditions could cause damage to valves, leading to narrowing, known as stenosis, leaking that is, regurgitation or insufficiency or improper closing — prolapse. These aren’t conditions anyone would desire. Here are its symptoms.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting (syncope)

Causes of Valvular Heart Disease

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Infections (infectious endocarditis)

Heart Facts you should Know

  • The average heart is the size of a fist in an adult.
  • The heart beats about 115,000 times each day.
  • The heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day.
  • An electrical system called the cardiac conduction system controls the rhythm of your heart.
  • The heart can keep beating even when it’s disconnected from the body.
  • The first open-heart surgery occurred in 1893. It was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, a United States cardiologist.
  • The earliest known case of heart disease was identified in the remains of a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy.
  • A kind of wasp, the fairy fly, is the living creature with the smallest heart.
  • Whales have the largest heart of any mammal.
  • The giraffe has a lopsided heart, with their left ventricle thicker than the right because the left side has to get blood up the giraffe’s long neck to reach their brain.
  • It’s been recorded that most heart attacks happen on Mondays.
  • The human heart weighs less than a pound. A man’s heart, however, on average, is 2 ounces heavier than a woman’s heart.
  • A woman’s heart beats slightly faster than a man’s heart.
  • The beating sound of your heart is caused by the valves of the heart opening and closing.
  • A heartbreak is real. It’s called broken heart syndrome and can have similar symptoms as a heart attack. The difference is that a heart attack is from heart disease and broken heart syndrome is caused by a rush of stress hormones from an emotional or physical stress event.
  • The popular heart shape as a symbol of love is traditionally thought to come from the silphium plant, which was used as an ancient form of birth control.
  • Laughing is good for your heart. It reduces stress and gives a boost to your immune system.

Final Words…

How do you feel knowing so much about your heart in a 5-7 minute read? Quite amazing, isn’t it? Now it’s expected that you’ll care for your heart better. Share your just-acquired knowledge with others, so together, we build a society of healthier hearts.