Heart disease, also referred to as cardiovascular disease, is a term given to a group of common yet extremely serious conditions, estimated to affect more than 28 million people in the United States at the present time. Heart disease is also one of the leading causes of premature death in the country, being cited as responsible for around one in four people passing away.
Our heart is our primary organ, responsible for propelling blood throughout our body via the circulatory system. It is this blood which supplies oxygen and nutrients to our bodily tissues, and carries carbon dioxide and waste away. When the health of our heart is compromised, it fails to function as it should, causing a range of unpleasant and debilitating symptoms, and eventually, death.
Types of Heart Disease
There are many different types of heart disease, and while some are congenital (present since birth), the majority develop during our lifetime, often as a result of the lifestyle choices that we make.
Some of the most common types of heart disease include:
Coronary Heart Disease
This is the most common type of heart disease in the United States and is characterized by the narrowing of the arteries through which blood flows too and from the heart. This prevents the heart from getting enough blood and oxygen, putting the patient at risk of chest pain, heart attack and even sudden heart failure.
The narrowed arteries are the result of the accumulation of fatty substances in the arteries, caused by poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and a diet high in fatty, convenience food, and other medical conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Arrhythmia is the name given to the improper function of your heart’s electrical system. Common abnormalities include your heart beating too slow, beating irregularly, beating too fast or skipping beats. When these abnormalities occur, it can cause the patient to experience a range of unpleasant symptoms, and treatment is required to regulate the electrical activity and restore the proper function of the heart.
This condition refers to the thickening of the heart muscle. The consequence of this condition is impeded blood flow out of the heart to the bodily tissues. This means that the patient’s body may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.
Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular heart disease occurs when your heart’s valves do not work the way that they should. This means that blood may not always flow in the correct direction, and therefore the heart cannot function as it should.
Owning a pet may help lower your risk of heart disease
Over the last few decades, a growing number of health benefits to pet ownership have been discovered and over the last decade, there have also been studies showing that becoming a pet parent can also reduce your risk of heart disease.
There are several reasons for this.
People who own active pets such as dogs are much more likely to achieve a reasonable amount of physical activity in a week – much more so than people who do not have a canine companion that requires daily walks. Doing any activity that increases the heart rate has been proven to be beneficial for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, two major contributors to heart disease. Even just 30 minutes of moderate activity (such as two, 15-minute brisk walks with your pooch) every day can dramatically improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Lower stress levels
Stress is one emotional state that is particularly bad for the body. It can cause a range of debilitating symptoms including insomnia, bruxism (teeth grinding), upset stomach, headaches and low-functioning immune system. Personal and professional relationships can also be adversely affected. Stress is well known for being a cause of high blood pressure, one of the most prevalent elements of the development of heart disease. Pet parenting is well known for having a positive effect on the mental health of humans, and spending just a few minutes every day stroking or caring for a pet can provide the owner with calm, comfort, companionship and a sense of purpose. It has also been proven to lower stress levels and in turn, help control blood pressure.