heart disease

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heart disease,

any of several abnormalities of the heart and its function in maintaining blood circulation. Heart disease is the cause of approximately half the deaths in the United States each year. Among the most common causes of heart disease are degenerative changes in the coronary blood vessels, infectious diseases, and congenital heart diseasecongenital heart disease,
any defect in the heart present at birth. There is evidence that some congenital heart defects are inherited, but the cause of most cases is unknown.
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. Congenital defects result from abnormal development of the fetal heart, commonly in the valves or septa. Such defects can be precipitated by environmental conditions in the uterus, such as the presence of the rubellarubella
or German measles,
acute infectious disease of children and young adults. It is caused by a filterable virus that is spread by droplet spray from the respiratory tract of an infected individual.
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 virus, or they can be inherited. Infectious diseases acquired after birth, such as rheumatic feverrheumatic fever
, systemic inflammatory disease, extremely variable in its manifestation, severity, duration, and aftereffects. It is frequently followed by serious heart disease, especially when there are repeated attacks. Rheumatic fever usually affects children.
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, syphilissyphilis
, contagious sexually transmitted disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum (described by Fritz Schaudinn and Erich Hoffmann in 1905). Syphilis was not widely recognized until an epidemic in Europe at the end of the 15th cent.
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, and endocarditisendocarditis
, bacterial or fungal infection of the endocardium (inner lining of the heart) that can be either acute or subacute. In the acute form the symptoms (fever, malaise, fatigue, weight loss, anemia) are directly related to the presence of an active infection that runs
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, can also damage the valves of the heart. In addition, the heart muscle itself can be affected: hypertensive heart disease (see hypertensionhypertension
or high blood pressure,
elevated blood pressure resulting from an increase in the amount of blood pumped by the heart or from increased resistance to the flow of blood through the small arterial blood vessels (arterioles).
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) can cause it to enlarge, and it can become inflamed by rheumatic fever. Arteriosclerotic depositions in the coronary arteries result in the narrowing of these vessels, causing insufficient blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle, a condition known as coronary artery diseasecoronary artery disease,
condition that results when the coronary arteries are narrowed or occluded, most commonly by atherosclerotic deposits of fibrous and fatty tissue. Coronary artery disease is the most common underlying cause of cardiovascular disability and death.
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. The characteristic radiating chest pain, angina pectorisangina pectoris
, condition characterized by chest pain that occurs when the muscles of the heart receive an insufficient supply of oxygen. This results when the arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygenated blood are narrowed by arteriosclerosis.
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, is the most prominent symptom of this condition. Coronary arteries already narrowed by arteriosclerosis are made susceptible to blockage by a clot (coronary thrombosisthrombosis
, obstruction of an artery or vein by a blood clot (thrombus). Arterial thrombosis is generally more serious because the supply of oxygen and nutrition to an area of the body is halted.
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), causing the death of the heart muscle supplied by the affected artery, a life-threatening event called a myocardial infarctioninfarction,
blockage of blood circulation to a localized area or organ of the body resulting in tissue death. Infarctions commonly occur in the spleen, kidney, lungs, brain, and heart.
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, or heart attack. Hypertensive, coronary, congenital, and other forms of cardiovascular disease, either singly or in combination, can lead to a state in which the heart is unable to expel sufficient blood for the metabolic demands of the body, ultimately resulting in congestive heart failurecongestive heart failure,
inability of the heart to expel sufficient blood to keep pace with the metabolic demands of the body. In the healthy individual the heart can tolerate large increases of workload for a considerable length of time.
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. Disturbances in the normal heartbeat, called arrhythmiasarrhythmia
, disturbance in the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. Various arrhythmias can be symptoms of serious heart disorders; however, they are usually of no medical significance except in the presence of additional symptoms.
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, can occur by themselves or in conjunction with other heart problems, for example infarction affecting the area of the heart that controls the heartbeat.
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