Heart problems

Heart disease is the single biggest killer in the UK. This year it is estimated that 440,000 people will die due to a heart attack (only one of many heart problems) in the UK alone.

This is a diagram of the human heart in relation to it’s arteries and veins and also the other main organs: Blood is pumped to the heart by veins, the main one being the venae cavae (shown in the diagram above). It is also pumped from the lungs to the heart by the pulmonary vein.Arteries take blood away from the heart, either to the rest of the body or to the lungs. If, for example, we did not know that the heart was so closely connected to the lungs, we may not try to treat respiratory problems by looking at the heart first. If the vein or artery connecting the heart to the lungs had a problem with it that caused shortness of breath, we would not know to treat that symptom by treating the heart. So with out this knowledge of the hearts structure, we would not have been able to treat the problem.Over 100,000 people suffer from a first stroke every year and it is the largest single cause of severe disability. We now know that they are caused by high blood pressure, meaning a larger than normal amount of force put on the muscular walls of the arteries.

This puts strain on the blood vessels causing them to thicken and deteriorate which leads to the heart having to work harder to pump blood through. These changes can eventually lead to a stroke. As we know what causes strokes, we can take measures to reduce the risk of them occurring.Because we know that the heart pumps blood to the body through arteries (through research of the function and structure of the heart) we know that it is damage to the arteries that puts extra pressure on the heart. So, we can be prescribed anti-hypertensive medication or take a number of measures to reduce this, including: regular exercise to strengthen the heart, losing excess weight and having a carefully controlled diet.

If we didn’t know that these things reduce blood pressure and we didn’t understand the way the heart works and that the high blood pressure was causing direct damage to the heart, we would not be able to treat it.Another good example of knowledge of the structure and functioning of the heart leading to developments in treatment, is bypass surgery. This is normally used when a coronary artery becomes blocked and the surgery’s purpose is to improve circulation and nourishment to the heart. A healthy vein or artery is “harvested” and connected to the aorta and then to the surface of the heart on the other side of the blocked portion of arteries, to “bypass” the needed blood around the blocked area.If we didn’t understand the way the arteries around the heart worked, we would not understand the importance of them and we would also not be able to perform bypass surgery. For this operation you would need to know where to connect the healthy vein or artery in order for the heart to function properly and you would not know this without proper knowledge of the function and structure of the heart. As we know from research into the structure and functioning of the heart, valves are located between the four chambers of the heart.

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There are two sets of valve on the left side of the heart, the mitral valve and the aortic valve, and there are two sets of valve on the right side of the heart; the tricuspid valve and the pulmonic valve. Although disease or dysfunction of any of the valves can be very serious, fatalities caused by the problems of the valves on the left side are much more common. There are a number of problems that can occur and there is treatment for all (although not always successful) due to our knowledge of the heart.But lets take one condition for example; Valvular Regurgitation (also known as valvular incompetence or valvular insufficiency). This is a condition where one or more of the four valves in the heart has problems closing properly and therefore blood is leaking back into the chamber that it came from. Mild valvular regurgitation may have no symptoms but can lead to congestive heart failure as the leak worsens. More severe regurgitation may show symptoms like shortness of breath or fatigue, as the heart has to work harder.

If there is not enough blood being pumped through because of regurgitation, the ventricles must work harder to pump the blood to the lungs and body, which cause eventually cause damage to one or both of them or cause enlarging and thickening of the whole heart. We understand this through our knowledge of the structure and functioning of the heart and therefore know what treatment can help it. In this case, simply taking antibiotics to treat and prevent infection before any surgical, medical or dental procedures can contain less severe valvular regurgitation.

In more severe cases though, it may take cardiac medication or valve surgery. Drugs will not cure the underlying disease, but they can minimise symptoms, ease the heart’s workload and regulate the heart’s rhythm to prevent arrhythmias and delay the need for surgery. Some of the medications available include; * ACE inhibitors to increase the size of the blood vessels, lower blood pressure that in turn decreases the workload of the heart. * Diuretics that lower the amount of salt fluid in the body. * Cardiotonics, which to increase the force of the heart’s contractions and slow rapid heart rhythms.This means that the heart beats less frequently but more effectively, and more blood is pumped into the arteries.

* Antiarrhythmics, which help to sustain a regular heartbeat. * Anticoagulants, which prevent the formation of blood clots. As well as these, open heart surgery to replace the valve will be needed in more severe cases. This could mean replacing it with an artificial valve, tissue taken from an animal or a healthy pulmonic valve being put in the aortic valves position and the pulmonic valve being replaced by one of a pig’s.Due to our knowledge of the heart, this is all possible. None of this would be able to take place if we did not know that needs to happen and will help in cases of Valvular Regurgitation.

Knowledge can also help patients, as if they aren’t knowledgeable going through treatment and surgery, it can be very stressful and would certainly put them at an easier state of mind. Also, it is always needed to help treat, and not only that but to prevent any kind of problem, but especially with something as vital, complicated and important as the heart.