Your heart has valves that control the flow of blood through its four chambers. You can be born with abnormalities in your heart valves, or they can be damaged by infection or changes that occur in your heart as a result of aging and poor lifestyle habits. Heart valve disease comes in two forms: stenosis, when the valves become too narrow for enough blood to pass through, and regurgitation, where the valve does not perform properly and allows blood to pass both forward and backward, instead of just forward. Your doctor can sometimes hear problems with your valves with a stethoscope as a heart murmur. Problems with your heart valves can lead to heart failure, in which one or more of the chambers of your heart cannot pump blood properly.
Coronary heart disease is when the blood vessels leading to your heart can become damaged or blocked up by plaques, which are made up of cholesterol, calcium, and other material. Partially blocked arteries can lead to angina, where you develop chest pain, often upon exerting yourself. A heart attack occurs when one of the arteries becomes completely blocked.
Many medical conditions directly or indirectly related to the heart, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, and heart valve disease, can eventually lead to damage to the heart muscles. When this happens, the muscles can no longer properly pump blood throughout your body. Eventually, this can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias.
Your heart needs to pump to a regular beat to effectively push blood throughout the body. When this beat becomes irregular, it’s called cardiac arrhythmia. People who have other heart problems are more susceptible to arrhythmias.
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