What is Heart Disease?
Easy to Understand Simple Definitions!

Q: What is heart disease?

A: Any condition or conditions that interfere with the correct structure and function of the heart, leading to dysfunction and the symptoms of disease processes.

To help you understand some of the terminology, let's just back-up a little bit.

All specific areas of interest have their own terminology or "in language." Sometimes when you want to learn about something new so that you can understand it better, it can be a real challenge because you have to have an understanding of the terminology before you can move forward - sound familiar?

You might like to refer to this page from time to time as a memory jogger when you need to remind yourself - "exactly, what is heart disease?"

I remember when I first started my training as a Medical Radiation Technologist, before I specialized in cardiac procedures, one of the first things we were taught to do was to start an alphabetized note book - carry it with us at all times and add medical terminology with a simple and concise plain English definition against the new word or phrase - kind of like you would do when you are learning new words to increase your vocabulary for a foreign language.

Now don't worry, I'm not expecting you to start a notebook!

Let's look at a few terms you're likely to encounter as you learn about coronary artery disease. This will help to de-mystify the industry language and help put you in a better position to be able to shift your focus from coronary heart disease to coronary heart health!

What is Heart Disease?

If someone you know has heart problems or a heart condition, then in general terms their issue will likely be covered by the heart disease definition categories below.

I have intentionally excluded congenital heart disease which includes a broad range of conditions present at birth and most often diagnosed in young infants and children.

Coronary Artery Disease falls under the general heading
of Vascular Disease

Vascular disease affects your body's blood vessels by restricting blood flow to organs and interfering with normal function. The heart, brain, and kidneys are organs commonly affected. In cases of ED or Erectile Dysfunction the vascular disease process can restrict blood flow to the penis. It is thought that vascular disease may cause ED in over 50% of men who develop Erectile Dysfunction.

Peripheral Vascular Disease or PVD can affect the distribution of blood supply to your legs, often causing pain on physical exertion in the calf muscles which is called claudication...essentially the same as getting chest pain or angina when your heart muscle is not getting sufficient blood supply.

Heart Disease Definition.

This is an umbrella term. It includes all diseases that are currently known to affect the heart organ and the blood vessels that supply it.

When someone says to you..."my uncle has heart disease" you can't know the exact nature of their uncle's heart condition unless you are given more information.

What is Heart Disease in the setting of Coronary Heart Disease?....

Coronary Heart Disease is a complex disease process that effects the coronary arteries - ultimately causing the development of one or more narrowed areas in those arteries making it very difficult or impossible for sections of the heart muscle to receive an adequate blood supply.

This is the most common of all heart disease conditions.

What is Heart Disease in the setting of Heart Valve Disease?

Heart valves - there are four in the human heart.

  • can become thickened and lose their flexibility
  • be a site for abnormal growths known as vegetations
  • become torn and inflamed
  • If any of these abnormalities occur it will affect the valves ability to open and close. The tight seal previously formed by the valve at the entry or exit to a heart chamber will become impaired. The resulting leak eventually puts a strain on the heart muscle and lungs.

    What is Heart Disease in the setting of Heart Muscle Disease?

  • Cardiomyopathy - cardio-my-op-athy.
  • A medical term that literally means heart muscle disease.

    Any condition that causes a deterioration in the heart muscle or Myocardium is a type of Cardiomyopathy.

    Coronary heart disease is a significant cause of Ischemic Cardiomyopathy.

    Ischemia - Isc-hemia, means a restriction to blood flow in a blood vessel.

    Ischemic Cardiomyopathy then, is a disease process that affects the heart muscle - caused by impaired blood flow in the coronary arteries.

    There are a number of other causes of Cardiomyopathy, some of which are genetic in nature.

    What is Heart Disease in the setting of Electrical Conductivity Diseases?

    Yes, your heart is fully wired up and has its own electrical system completely integrated!

    The heart's electrical system is responsible for generating and transmitting electrical signals down its own "wire network" to stimulate certain parts of the heart muscle. This is what makes your heart beat.

    Any disease process that interferes with your heart's "electrics" can cause unusual heart rhythms to occur. An individual may or may not be aware of these abnormal rhythms.

    These are known as Arrhythmias - A-rith-mi-a's or Cardiac Arrhythmias.

    Electrocardiology is a specific area of medical science that studies and treats electrical conductivity diseases.

    What is Heart Disease in the setting of Inflammation of the Heart?

  • Endocarditis. Endo-card-eye-tis. itis = inflammation
  • Endocarditis is an inflammation of the inner wall of the heart, the endocardium.

    It is common for the heart valves to be involved and it is often caused by an invading bacterial infection that the immune system has failed to cope with.

  • Myocarditis. My-o-card-eye-tis.
  • A heart muscle disease condition due to inflammation of the heart muscle or Myocardium.

    This condition can be caused by...

    1. Bacterial, viral or fungal infection.

    2. Autoimmune dysfunction, where the body's own immune system turns against the body it is meant to be protecting.

    3. Exposure to external toxic sources such as certain drugs, heavy metals and radiation.

  • Pericarditis. Peri-card-eye-tis.
  • An inflammation of the pericardium which is a fibrous sac that surrounds or contains the heart.

    This can be caused by bacterial and viral infections among a number of other potential causes.

    This condition usually involves a collection of fluid within the pericardium or sac which can become infected. The presence of fluid can also make it difficult for the heart to operate properly as a pump.

    What is Heart Disease in the setting of Congestive Heart Disease?

    This condition is also known as Congestive Heart Failure or simply,
    Heart Failure.

    Don't confuse this term heart failure with a heart attack or a cardiac arrest ...they are not the same thing ..but they can be related. yes, it can get a bit confusing!

    Congestive Heart Disease is a common condition for the elderly that can result from...

    A structural abnormality in the heart or...
    a disorder that effects the function of the heart in some way.

    Anything that interferes with the ability of the heart to fill with or pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body will cause congestive heart disease.

    Congestive heart disease could be precipitated by any of the heart disease categories that I have listed above, for example coronary heart disease. There are a number of additional causes as well.

    Return from What is Heart Disease to Coronary Heart Health Home page

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