Cardiovascular system: Heart diseases

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Heart diseases can affect both children and adults. In children, they’re usually congenital, or present from birth, and they can result from abnormal development of the heart during pregnancy.

In adults, heart diseases are acquired, which means that they develop later in life, and they’re often caused by the person’s lifestyle choices.

Okay, let’s start with congenital heart diseases, which can affect the atria, the ventricles, the heart valves, and vessels. They can cause blood flow to slow down, stop completely, or change direction.

There’s no clear cause that’s been identified, but there are a number of risk factors that seem to be associated with congenital heart disease.

The most well-known factors include a family history of a congenital heart disease, certain viral infections of the mother during pregnancy, maternal diabetes, and exposure to medications and illicit drugs.

Children with congenital heart diseases could be asymptomatic or present with difficulty breathing; cyanosis, which is when the skin turns blue due to decreased oxygen in the blood; poor feeding; and failure to thrive, which means that the child is not growing as fast as they should.

Diagnosis is usually made during pregnancy or soon after birth. However, some cases are diagnosed when the child is older.

Treatment usually requires medications or surgery to correct the defect, and afterwards, children can often grow up to live a normal life without complications.

Okay, now, let’s switch our focus to acquired heart diseases that are more common in adults. The most common are coronary artery disease; heart failure; and arrhythmia, which is abnormal heart rhythm.

Risk factors for an acquired heart disease can be divided into non-modifiable, meaning they can’t be changed, and modifiable, which means they can be.

Non-modifiable risk factors include age, with biological males greater than 45 years and biological females greater than 55 years being more at risk; sex, with biological males being at a greater risk; and family history of heart disease.


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