What is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease or CVD, involves disease of the heart and blood vessels, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and congenital cardiovascular defects. CVD is a very common disease. Cardiovascular disease can include many different infections and diseases, most of which deal with blockages in the heart or abnormal heartbeats. The term is most often used in place of atherosclerosis, which is damage caused to the blood vessels that carry oxygen all through the body by a fatty plaque buildup in the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a thickening or hardening of arteries that sometimes simply occurs because of age. Normal, healthy arteries are flexible, but maintain a lot of pressure through the years that can cause wear and tear. An unhealthy diet, being overweight, not exercising and smoking are all factors that can cause this common cardiovascular disease to occur.
According to a representative of the American Heart Association in testimony before the Social Security Administration in 2010, CVD affects an estimated 81 million American adults. That means more than one in three individuals have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. However, CVD can vary in type and severity. CVD can also vary in its impact on the patient. For some patients with severe forms of CVD, cardiovascular disease can make it difficult, if not impossible, to lead a normal life. CVD is also an equal opportunity disease since it is also the number one cause of death in women.
Cardiovascular disease includes numerous problems, including:
- Acute Myocardial Infarction
- Carotid Artery Disease
- Congenital Heart Disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Fluid Around The Heart
- Infective Endocarditis
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Valvular Heart Disease
Many of of the foregoing conditions are related to a process called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the diameter (or width) of the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms in the narrowed arteries, it could stop the flow of blood. This can in turn cause a heart attack or stroke.
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to a part of the heart. If this clot completely blocks the blood flow, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Most individuals survive their first heart attack and return to their normal lives to enjoy many more years of productive activity.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually by a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, brain cells will die. The result will be the inability to carry out some of the previous functions, including functions such as walking or talking.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. The most likely cause is uncontrolled hypertension.
Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after a stroke due to lack of blood and oxygen flow to the brain. These cells are never replaced. The good news is that some brain cells don’t die — they are just temporarily out of order. Injured cells can repair themselves. Over time, as the repair takes place, body functioning improves. Also, other brain cells may take control of those areas that were injured. If this occurs, strength, speech and memory may improve.
Other Types of Cardiovascular Disease
Heart failure: This does not mean that the heart stops beating. Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, means the heart is not pumping blood as well as it should be. The heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen is not being satisfied. Heart failure can get worse if it’s not treated.
Arrhythmia: Arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. The heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly. Bradycardia is when the heart beats less than 60 times per minute. Tachycardia is when the heart beats more than 100 times per minute. An arrhythmia can affect how well the heart works, especially when the heart is not be able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Atrial fibrillation (AF or A-Fib) is a common type of cardiac arrhythmia. A-Fib is when the heart’s upper chambers, the atria, flutter rather than beat efficiently. This inefficient beating hinders the proper flow of blood from the atria, leading to potential clot formation. Should a fragment of such a clot dislodge and travel to the brain’s arteries, it can result in a severe stroke.
Heart valve problems: Stenosis is when heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should. When the heart valves don’t properly close and allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. When the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, that creates a condition called mitral valve prolapse. When this happens, they may not close properly. This allows blood to flow backward through them.
Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy is essentially a disease of the heart muscle, known as the myocardium, where the heart muscle has become so compromised that it struggles to pump blood effectively. The progression of cardiomyopathy can vary: for some, it worsens over time, while others may see a stabilization or even an improvement.
In its early stages, cardiomyopathy often goes unnoticed as it might not present any symptoms. However, as the condition advances, symptoms become more pronounced. Symptoms can mirror those of congestive heart failure and may include irregular heartbeats, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fatigue, and pain in the chest and abdomen.
Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a weakened or thin section of a blood vessel in the brain that can bulge when filled with blood. While all aneurysms pose the risk of rupture, which causes bleeding in the brain, not all aneurysms will rupture. It’s possible to have an aneurysm without being aware of it, especially if it remains small and doesn’t burst.
Typically the size of a small cherry, an aneurysm might only be detected during thorough medical examinations. As a result, many aneurysms can remain undetected. Although an undetected aneurysm isn’t immediately life-threatening, it’s crucial to address it promptly upon discovery.
Congenital heart disease: Congenital heart defects, often simply called congenital heart disease, refer to a range of abnormalities in the heart and its major vessels that are present at birth. This is the most prevalent birth defect, affecting 9 in every 1000 newborns, and it’s responsible for the highest number of birth defect-related fatalities. While many individuals with this condition experience minimal to no complications, others may need immediate surgical interventions or ongoing medical treatment.
Although the defect is innate, symptoms may not manifest in an affected child right away. Common indications include shortness of breath, underdeveloped limbs and muscles, stunted growth, and frequent respiratory infections. Some individuals develop cyanosis, where the skin takes on a bluish or purplish hue due to insufficient oxygen in the skin tissues. Additionally, “heart murmurs,” which are unusual sounds resulting from turbulent blood flow within or near the heart, might be observed.
Ischemic heart disease: Ischemic heart disease is a condition in which the heart cannot get enough oxygen and blood flow because of a cholesterol build-up in the heart’s arteries. It is also known as coronary artery disease, or “hardening of the arteries.” The condition of reduced blood supply is called ischemia, and it is most likely to appear in men, especially those who have close relatives with the disease.
Common symptoms include severe chest pain during exertion, consistent and milder chest pain during rest, difficulty breathing, heartburn, or, in more severe cases, harsher signs of heart failure. Those with the disease are not usually able to exercise at any length without an increasing of pain. Individuals who smoke are at a higher risk of getting the illness, and it also often appears in those with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
Congestive heart failure: Also known as congestive cardiac failure, congestive heart failure is when the heart cannot pump strongly enough to sufficiently distribute blood flow to the body. It can be caused by any number of heart problems. The most common source is coronary artery disease, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood and oxygen. Those with high blood pressure are more likely to experience congestive heart failure than healthier individuals. A heart attack, congenital heart disease, heart valve disease, and any type of heart-weakening infection are also common causes of heart failure.
There are two types of heart failure. Systolic heart failure, which is usually what is understood as congestive heart failure, is when the muscles have difficulty pumping blood out of the heart. Diastolic heart failure is when the heart muscles become stiff and have trouble filling with blood. Congestive heart failure may affect only the right or left side of the heart, but it usually affects both sides.
Coronary artery disease: Coronary artery disease is the damaging of the coronary arteries that bring oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the heart. This is caused by a buildup of fatty articles in the coronary arteries that happens gradually with time. The worse the buildup gets, the smaller the arteries become and the less blood your heart receives. This all happens over a slow, long period of time, sometimes even decades. It often leads to a heart attack, which may be the first sign of the condition. The effects of coronary artery disease can include serious conditions that keep those who have it from their normal work.
At first, as the fatty deposits are slowly building up in the arteries, no signs or symptoms will be noticeable. Later, as the disease gets worse and the buildup compresses the coronary arteries more significantly, some symptoms will probably be experienced. These typically include shortness of breath with or without exertion, a general feeling of fatigue, and swelling in the ankles and feet. Chest pain is also a strong sign of the condition, as is a heart attack, especially without a prior condition.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is categorized into two types: primary and secondary. Primary hypertension arises without any evident underlying medical reasons, while secondary hypertension results from specific medical conditions, especially those related to the kidneys, arteries, heart, or endocrine system. Individuals who are obese or have adrenal gland disorders are more prone to develop high blood pressure.
Having hypertension increases one’s risk of experiencing heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, arterial aneurysms, and chronic kidney disease. Furthermore, hypertension can significantly reduce life expectancy and manifest symptoms such as nausea, migraines, vision disturbances, and concentration difficulties.
In extreme situations, where blood pressure readings reach or exceed 180/110, there may be signs of damage to essential organs due to the high blood pressure. Such a scenario is termed a hypertension emergency.
Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease
If blood vessels have been damaged, it is a normal sign to feel numbness, weakness, coldness or pain in your legs or arms. Chest pain and shortness of breath with or without exercise are other common symptoms of having a cardiovascular disease. In many cases, those who have a heart disease do not show signs for extended periods. However, if left untreated, the condition will simply worsen and possibly lead to a heart attack, stroke or sudden cardiac death. It is important to maintain regular doctor visits in order to catch any heart problems early before they lead to such serious conditions.
Heart Problems and Disability
Given its impact, it should be no surprise that some individuals with CVD may have symptoms that are so severe that they are unable to work on a full-time, consistent basis in any occupation. If this is you, then you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
If you are unable to work as a result of cardiovascular disease, you should consult with an experienced heart disease disability attorney. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration does not make it easy for disabled claimants to receive the benefits that they deserve. If your cardiovascular disorder makes it impossible for you to work and you have been denied your Social Security disability benefits, Mr. Nick Ortiz can help you cut through the red tape and fight for your disability benefits. Give us a call today to discuss your benefits at (888) 321-8131.