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Why Heart Disease is a Complex Human Disease

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  • 0:01 What Is Heart Disease?
  • 2:19 Why Is Heart Disease…
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sarah Lawson

Sarah has taught nursing courses and has a master's degree in nursing education.

Many diseases and conditions contribute to heart disease. This makes heart disease very complex and sometimes difficult to treat. Learn more about heart disease and test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, describes a range of complex conditions that affect the functionality of the heart. Because there are so many different diseases or conditions that can affect the heart, heart disease becomes very complex and often difficult to treat. Sometimes, doctors need to be more like detectives when trying to treat a disease like heart disease. What symptoms does this patient have? Why are these symptoms occurring? In this lesson, we will discuss different types of heart disease and why it is a complex human disease.

As I stated earlier, there are many different conditions or diseases that affect the human heart. These conditions can be blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease, or heart rhythm conditions, or arrhythmias. Coronary artery disease describes a condition in which plaque is building up on the lining of the coronary arteries. This buildup of plaque is called atherosclerosis. This can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and eventually a heart attack or stroke.

Arrhythmia is a condition in which the rhythm of the heart is irregular. This can mean that it is beating too fast or too slow, skipping beats, or just beating in a way that is not normal. During arrhythmias, the heart is not functioning as well as it should. This can mean that it is not delivering the oxygen-rich blood to internal organs that is needed for proper functioning. This lack of blood flow can cause damage to the brain, heart, or other organs.

Another heart condition, congenital heart defect, means a heart condition or disease a person is born with. This usually involves a problem in the structure of the heart, such as the valves, walls, or muscle of the heart.

Why Is Heart Disease so Complex?

There are many different types of heart disease and even more reasons why people develop it. This is why doctors need to do a little detective work when treating a person with heart disease. In order to treat the disease and the damage, the cause must be identified and treated too.

Heart disease is often used to describe damage that is done to the heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque. Normally, artery walls are somewhat flexible to allow blood to move freely and without restriction. When plaque builds up, the artery walls stiffen, which inhibits blood flow through the arteries and to organs. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of heart disease. It is most often caused by lifestyle choices, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight, and smoking.

Heart arrhythmia is another form of heart disease. There are many conditions that can cause heart arrhythmias, including:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine use
  • Drug abuse
  • Stress
  • Some medications, such as prescription or over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies
  • Valvular heart disease

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