It makes sense that if you want to understand the risk of heart disease, you should have a working knowledge of how the heart works. At least, the Mayo Clinic thinks so. This is their overview of how that mysterious organ keeps us ticking.
“Your heart is a pump. It’s a muscular organ about the size of your fist and located slightly left of center in your chest. Your heart is divided into the right and the left side. The division protects oxygen-rich blood from mixing with oxygen-poor blood. Oxygen-poor blood returns to the heart after circulating through your body.
“The right side of the heart, composed of the right atrium and ventricle, collects and pumps blood to the lungs through the pulmonary arteries. The lungs refresh the blood with a new supply of oxygen, making it turn red. Oxygen-rich blood then enters the left side of the heart, composed of the left atrium and ventricle, and is pumped through the aorta to supply tissues throughout the body with oxygen and nutrients.
“Four valves within your heart keep your blood moving the right way. The tricuspid, mitral, pulmonary and aortic valves open only one way and only when pushed on. Each valve opens and closes once per heartbeat — or about once every second while you’re at rest.
“A beating heart contracts and relaxes. Contraction is called systole, and relaxation is called diastole. During systole, your ventricles contract, forcing blood into the vessels going to your lungs and body — much like ketchup being forced out of a squeeze bottle. The right ventricle contracts a little bit before the left ventricle does. Your ventricles then relax during diastole and are filled with blood coming from the upper chambers, the left and right atria. The cycle then starts over again.
“Your heart also has electrical wiring, which keeps it beating. Electrical impulses begin high in the right atrium and travel through specialized pathways to the ventricles, delivering the signal to pump. The conduction system keeps your heart beating in a coordinated and normal rhythm, which in turn keeps blood circulating. The continuous exchange of oxygen-rich blood with oxygen-poor blood is what keeps you alive.”
I could write for days and not express the workings of the heart as well as that. As you can see, the heart is an amazing organ that has many integrated parts. It is easy to see how many things could go wrong.
The heart is exposed to risk through what we call manageable lifestyle choices and causes that are, to a degree, beyond our control. The good news is that the number of uncontrollable causes is shrinking. That puts pressure on each of use to treat our heart responsibly. It is an amazing organ that affects every one of our body systems.
The Causes of Heart Disease
The source for this information is the Mayo Clinic. Each type of heart disease has its own causes. Some causes are shared but to fully understand the risks, it is best to understand the causes of specific types.
Cardiovascular Disease (Arteries)
- · Buildup of fatty plaques in arteries
- · Pressure in arteries makes walls thick and restricts blood flows
- · Unhealthy diet
- · Lack of exercise
- · Being overweight
- · Smoking
- · Abnormal heart rhythms
- · Breathing difficulty
- · Light-headedness
- · High blood pressure
- · Coronary artery disease
- · Diabetes
- · Heart defects
- · Stress
- · Smoking
- · Drug Abuse
- · Excessive use of alcohol
- · Certain over the-counter medications
- · Certain prescription medications
- · Certain herbal remedies
- · Dietary supplements
Valvular Heart Disease
- · Necessary electrical impulses do not start or travel through the heart.
- · Arrhythmia develops
- · Fatal arrhythmia is unlikely to start without outside triggers.
- · See causes above.
- · Electrical shock
- · Repeated use of drugs
- · Thickening or enlarging of heart muscle
There are three types of cardio myopathy
- · Dilated cardiomyopathy – the left ventricle, the heart’s chief pumping station, becomes enlarged interfering with the heart’s ability to circulate blood through the body. The most common type of cardiomyopathy.
- · Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – Abnormal growth or thickening of the heart muscle. Again, this strikes the main pumping chamber.
- · Restrictive cardiomyopathy – Heart muscle becomes stiff, less elastic. The heart cannot expand properly and fill with necessary blood levels. The least common form of cardiomyopathy.
- · One of the reasons cardiomyopathy is so dangerous is that there are no “exact causes” for this form of heart disease.
- · Pericarditis
- · Endocarditis
- · Myocarditis
- · Bacteria or chemicals reach the heart muscle
Bacteria in the bloodstream
- · Tick-borne bacteria (Lyme disease especially)
- · Oral hygiene bacteria
- · Influenza
- · Gastrointestinal
- · Mononucleosis
- · German measles
- · Trypanosoma cruzi
- · Toxoplasma
- · Parasites transmitted by insects – Chagas’ Disease
Medications that cause an allergic or toxic reaction
- · Certain antibiotics
- · Illegal substances
- · Unsterilized needles
- · Lupus
- · Connective tissue disorders
- · Inflammation of blood vessels
- · Rare inflammatory conditions
My hope is that you will read this summary and have a better understanding of the causes of this broad-based killing disease. If you have manageable conditions that can cause heart disease, you must make decisions to risk heart disease of change your lifestyle. If you have any questions, contact your physician or cardiologist for answers.