What is Heart Disease?

The heart is a muscular pump that pumps blood around the body. In most people, it beats at least once every second and must sustain this for the duration of our life. Considering this phenomenal workload it is not surprising that it can be prone to failure with disastrous consequences. Sadly, one Australian dies of heart disease every 12 minutes.

Heart disease is a disturbance in the heart’s function and typically arises from one of these problems:

1. Impaired blood supply to the heart muscle (Coronary Heart Disease) – the coronary blood vessels supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients. If these vessels are narrowed (eg due to cholesterol deposits in coronary artery disease), the blood supply will be reduced and chest pain may occur. If a vessel is completely blocked, that part of the heart is deprived of oxygen and will die (called a heart attack or myocardial infarction). If more than one-third of the heart muscle dies during a heart attack, the impact is fatal.

2. Reduced Pumping (Heart Failure) – this may be due to the weaknesses in the heart muscle itself (eg cardiomyopathy) or a problem with the heart valves (valvular heart disease).

3. Abnormal heart beat (Cardiac Arrhythmia) – this may be a heart beat that is too slow (heart block) or too fast (tachycardia), both of which reduce the heart’s efficiency.

Top 3 Healthy Heart Tips Australian Heart ResearchAre you at risk?

Heart disease remains the largest single cause of death in Australia, and accounts for 34% of male and 39% of female deaths. There are a number of conditions which increase the risk of heart disease such as diabetes, anxiety and depression as well as lifestyle risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high body mass index, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and low fruit and vegetable intake.

By being aware of these risk factors for heart disease and choosing to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of heart disease dramatically.

To find out more about the different types of heart disease visit the Types of Heart Disease page.

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