A man holding his chest
There are many causes of heart disease. Some are based on lifestyle choices, and others are hereditary.

Types of Heart Diseases

Different types of heart diseases are also referred to as cardiovascular disease. These are a range of conditions that can affect your heart, and each have their own causes and symptoms. Conditions that affect the structure or function of the heart can involve narrowing or blockage to blood vessels, which can result in a heart attack. Let’s take a deeper look at the types of heart diseases and their risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

1. Coronary Heart Disease

This is the most common type of heart disease. Damage to the heart or blood vessels occurs when there is a buildup of fatty plaque in your arteries (a disease called atherosclerosis). This plaque thickens and causes an obstacle for oxygenated blood to flow through your arteries to your organs and tissues.

Contributing factors include smoking, high levels of fats and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure and high levels of sugar in the blood. If the condition gets severe enough, it can result in a heart attack, stroke and even death.

2. Arrhythmia

This is when a person's heartbeat is irregular — too slow or too fast. It's the result of congenital heart defects (you are born with these). Factors that can contribute to arrhythmia include:

  • Coronary artery disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • Excessive use of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Stress.
  • Medication.
  • Dietary supplements.
  • Herbal remedies.
  • Valvular heart disease.

3. Structural Congenital Heart Defects

These physical deficiencies in the structure of the heart develop while the baby is still in the womb. The defects progress as the heart develops and can change the flow of blood in the heart due to the formation of holes in the heart chambers. This can also obstruct blood flow and form abnormal blood vessels.

These defects can be the result of genes, diabetes, consuming alcohol while pregnant, taking certain medications or smoking. You may not be aware of any defects until after the child is born.

4. Disease Caused by Heart Infection

Common causes of infection include bacteria, viruses and parasites in the blood. Heart infections occur when an irritant reaches the heart muscle, bringing on inflammation and other symptoms, such as pain and heart damage. These infections are often short-lived.

5. Vascular Heart Disease

Vascular disease is caused by issues in other blood vessels and can reduce blood flow. Proper function of the heart is affected when blood flow is reduced.

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Risk Factors of Heart Disease

There are many risk factors for developing heart disease. Again, some are related to lifestyle choices (so you can take preventative measures), but others are out of our control. For example, if your family has a history of heart disease, it is likely that you will too.

Common risks include:

  • Age. As you age, you develop a higher risk for damaged and narrow arteries (as you have had more time to build up plaque over the years) and weakened or thickened heart muscle.
  • Sex. Generally speaking, men are at greater risk for heart disease than women. After menopause, women’s risk of heart disease increases as well.
  • Genetics. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, but it does not guarantee that you will experience heart disease in your lifetime.
  • High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can thicken your arteries and narrow the area for blood flow.
  • High blood cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol can increase the formation of plaque and constrict proper blood flow.
  • Unhealthy diet. Taking care of your heart is a great reason to stick to a healthy diet. Avoiding diets that are high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can reduce the development of heart disease. Poor diets may lead to obesity, and this excess weight can amplify other risk factors for heart disease.
  • Lack of exercise. A shortage of physical fitness is associated with many forms of heart disease.
  • Smoking. Nicotine constricts blood vessels. Studies show that heart attacks are more common in smokers than non-smokers.
  • Diabetes. Having diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. There are similar risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity.
  • Stress. High stress can manifest physically and worsen other risk factors for heart disease.

Heart Disease Prevention

The best thing you can do for your heart is to take care of yourself. Most types of cardiovascular disease can be avoided or eased through the pursuit of healthy living. A great place to start is getting your diet and weight under control. Switch to a diet that is low in salt, saturated fats and trans fats; you can see a dietician or nutritionist for advice if you are unsure.

Try to get in some form of physical activity most days out of the week. Stress has been known to exacerbate health issues, so if you are mentally or emotionally worn down, focus on your well-being to get your stress levels under control. If you have any other health conditions, like high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure, see your doctor to get those under control too.

There are many types of heart disease out there. Do what you can to be healthy and prevent cardiovascular issues from happening before they start. You only have one heart, and you need to treat it kindly.