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Types of Heart Conditions and Diseases

Types of Heart Conditions and Diseases
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  • 0:06 Heart Conditions
  • 0:40 Coronary Arteries
  • 1:26 Atherosclerosis
  • 2:26 Coronary Heart Disease
  • 3:37 Heart Attack
  • 4:21 Congestive Heart Failure
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Your heart muscle receives a rich blood supply from the coronary arteries. If the coronary arteries become blocked, it can result in coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack or congestive heart failure. Learn how these conditions get started.

Heart Conditions

The heart consists of four chambers that are continuously bathed in blood. This blood is pumped through the heart every second of every day. But if the heart muscle itself is not getting a sufficient blood supply, serious health problems can arise. In this lesson, you will learn about some common heart conditions and diseases.

So, you might be wondering how the heart muscle could ever be short of blood. After all, the entire blood supply circulates through the heart chambers numerous times a day. However, the blood inside the heart does not nourish the heart muscle. This is the job of the coronary arteries.

Coronary Arteries

We can't have a conversation about heart disease without mentioning the right and left coronary arteries. We previously learned that these arteries are the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. We can recall this term by remembering that the word 'coronary' refers to the heart. Proper function of the heart muscle is essential to life, so your circulatory system wastes no time supplying it with oxygen-rich blood straight off of the aorta as we see in this picture.

The coronary arteries extend into the heart from the aorta.
Coronary Arteries Aorta

The coronary arteries are relatively narrow, and because they lie directly on the heart, they tend to compress when the ventricles contract and fill when the heart relaxes. These facts do not cause problems with normal, healthy coronary arteries, but it can become a factor if there is a problem with the arteries.

Atherosclerosis

One problem that can affect any artery in your body is plaque buildup. This is a condition called atherosclerosis, which is defined as hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup. Atherosclerosis usually begins because the delicate inner layer of the arteries becomes damaged due to such things as smoking or high blood pressure. This makes the inside of the artery rough and allows fatty materials, such as cholesterol, to stick to the inside of the arteries and grow over time.

As this plaque grows, it takes up space, leaving less space for blood to travel through the artery and feed the organ or muscle that it is leading to. It is kind of like a traffic jam that is caused by road construction. If one lane of a highway is blocked due to road construction, all of the traffic must travel in one lane around the construction. This is inefficient, and less traffic is going to get through. It's the same with a clogged artery.

Coronary Heart Disease

Arterial plaque and hardening causes coronary artery disease.
Coronary Artery Disease

Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in your body. If it affects the coronary arteries, it takes on a special name and becomes coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. We define this condition as a narrowing of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of plaque. As we mentioned, this plaque takes up space and this obstructs the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen, a person can experience angina, which is chest pain caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle. A person prone to angina might not have chest pain when he or she is resting because as we mentioned, the coronary arteries are able to fill during the relaxation periods of the heartbeat. If the person exercises or becomes stressed, the relaxation periods are shortened because the heart pounds more frequently. You may have heard that the drug nitroglycerin can be used to decrease angina. This works because nitroglycerin stimulates vasodilation (which, we remember, causes the blood vessels to dilate, or increase in size), and this allows more blood to flow through the coronary arteries.

Heart Attack

Over time, plaque within the coronary arteries can build to a point where the artery is completely blocked or the plaque can break off of the artery wall and become stuck in smaller arteries. This can stop blood flow to the heart muscle and can result in a heart attack, which is defined as the blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle resulting in damage or death of the heart cells. An interesting way to remember this is to note that the medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction. The term 'myocardial' means heart muscle, and the term 'infarction' means death of tissue due to lack of oxygen, so a myocardial infarction (or a heart attack) is literally the death of the heart muscle.

Plaque blocking blood flow to the heart can cause heart attacks.
Heart Attack Plaque

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