A Caregiver's Guide to Common Heart Disease Terms

Healthy Heart|Mar.11, 2019


To most people heart is often the seat of love and soul in a person but when it comes to your body, it's safe to say that it is the seat of life too. This vital organ, as we all know, plays a critical role in the overall functioning of the human body — it carries out many major functions, such as distributing life-essential blood throughout the body, carrying carbon dioxide to be exhaled by the lungs and maintains blood pressure.

And because the heart is so important, it is essential to know what potential issues it can face and how to deal with any of these heart related health issues. Be it as an acting caregiver for someone with heart disease or as someone experiencing these issues first hand. Here's a compiled quick guide to the most common terms associated with various heart diseases and disorders — and some tips for how you can help reduce their risk.

1. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries become impaired, typically due to plaque build-up, and can't effectively carry blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart. As the disease progresses, symptoms such as chest pains and shortness of breath may be experienced. If ignored, ​coronary artery disease lead to a heart attack.

While the best defence against coronary artery disease is prevention, you can help your loved one manage the disease by helping them change their lifestyle. Encourage them to quit smoking or to cut back on eating foods high in cholesterol. Additionally, research shows that encouraging your loved one to exercise regularly can help prevent and treat heart disease, and getting active has the added bonus of increasing happiness.

2. Congestive Heart Failure

Indians have fair reason to be worried about the matters of the heart when the diagnosis is congestive heart failure. Contrary to its name, congestive heart failure doesn't mean that your heart has completely stopped working, according to the American Heart Association. But the alarm bells are ringing because either the heart has become weak or something has stopped blood from properly circulating.

So where does the congestion come in? A weakened heart isn't as good at circulating blood, which means less blood goes to the kidneys, which filter fluid out of the blood. That extra fluid gets left behind, and it can build up around the eyes and in the liver, lungs and legs.

3. Arrhythmia

Someone living with heart disease may also find themselves dealing with arrhythmia — a condition where the heart beats too quickly, too slowly or out of sequence — as a result of erratic or irregular electrical impulses. Quite literally, their heart skips a beat. But, in this context, it isn't the all too familiar romantic turn of phrase. An arrhythmic heart can't pump blood as it should, which can lead to complications in the lungs, brain and other organs.

If the person you're caring for experiences a fluttering sensation in the chest, shortness of breath, chest pains or dizziness, you will need to make sure they see a doctor right away. The doctor may prescribe medication, put your loved one on a heart-healthy diet, or suggest abstinence from alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.

4. Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease resembles coronary artery disease in that both lead to narrowing of the arteries, particularly the ones that bring blood to the stomach, arms, heart and, most commonly, the legs. The danger with peripheral artery disease is that the pains and cramps in the lower extremities associated with it are often interpreted to be unrelated to the heart. If a total loss of circulation is left untreated, this condition can lead to gangrene.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your loved one, consult a doctor. If the doctor diagnoses peripheral artery disease, the doctor will recommend appropriate treatments; if the condition is severe enough, they might perform surgery to insert a stent to open the artery.

Take steps to prevent peripheral artery disease by having your loved one quit smoking, eat a heart-healthy diet, and get regular exercise. Even regular walking is good for the heart, and a simple pedometer can help your loved one create a daily step goal and stick with it.

5. Stroke

A stroke occurs when blood and oxygen don't reach an area of the brain, according to the National Stroke Association. People who are having a stroke exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Numbness/weakness in the face (which often results in a droopy smile), leg or arm, often on one side of the body
  • Difficulty thinking and speaking
  • Trouble seeing
  • Strong headache
  • Dizziness
  • Balance issues

If the person you're caring for is having a stroke, take note of the exact time of their first symptom, and rush them to the hospital.

Stroke and heart disease are closely linked, but the National Stroke Association says up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with the proper measures. Inform doctors about any family history of stroke. Help your loved one manage and consistently track their blood pressure through physical activity and a heart-healthy diet. Be sure that they take their medications or blood thinners, if they're prescribed by a physician. Incorporate heart-conscious lifestyle changes. Talk about the different technologies that can help with recovery from these often debilitating conditions. With proper care, you can ensure your loved one lives their best life.


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