Conditions of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms, Save a Life

Conditions of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms, Save a Life

Jenny Brannan
Posted by Jenny Brannan

Date: Friday, 16 June 2017. -  
Blog, First Aid, First Aid Emergencies

The heart is your most important organ and it is important that you look after it so it can look after you!

However, similarly to other vital organs, the heart can develop certain conditions which can cause complications to an individual’s life.

The heart is your most important organ and it is important that you look after it so it can look after you!

However, similarly to other vital organs, the heart can develop certain conditions which can cause complications to an individual’s life. 

The severity of these conditions can vary, some are life changing whereas others are underlying and not noticeable. In this post, we look at three conditions which the heart can develop, their symptoms and what needs to be done to potentially save a life.

Coronary Heart Disease

Many people are unaware, but this Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the world’s biggest killer.

Coronary Heart Disease occurs when the arteries around the heart start to narrow due to a fatty material that builds up called atheroma. This build up causes the arteries to narrow restricting the blood flow to the heart muscle.

If the flow of oxygen rich blood is reduced, due to the fatty deposits collecting in the artery, angina can occur. This is the most common symptom of CHD. Angina is a chest pain or discomfort. Angina can feel like pressure or squeezing in the chest area. This pain can also arise in the shoulders, arms, jaw, neck or back. Angina can even feel like indigestion to some too.

A heart attack can happen if the flow of oxygen rich blood to a section of the heart muscle is completely cut off. If blood flow doesn’t return swiftly, the section of the heart muscle affected will begin to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to serious health implications or even death.

CHD has been known to weaken the heart, over time and can lead to heart failure or even arrhythmias. Heart Failure is a condition in which the heart does not pump enough blood around the body to meet its needs, whereas arrhythmias are problems with the heart’s rhythm.

There are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease. A few ways to do this are:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Give up smoking
  • Be physically active
  • Reduce alcohol consumption

Arrhythmias

For the heart to effectively pump a sufficient amount of blood around the body it needs to be beating in what is medically known as a ‘resting heart rate’.

Depending upon various factors in the individual’s life, such as activity and fitness levels, medication and emotion, their resting heart rate can vary.

Usually, an adult’s resting heart rate ranges from 60-100 beats per minute, but there are circumstances in which the heart will beat in an irregular rhythm – either too fast or too slow. These are known as arrhythmias.

While there are many arrhythmias, we consider the following three the main ones you should look out for.

Bradycardia

This arrhythmia causes the heart to beat at an abnormally low rate, less than 60 beats per minute.

For established athletes, a resting heart rate of lower than 60 beats per minute is a sign of them being in good physical condition, whereas for others it may be a cause for concern.

This arrhythmia can be a sign that there is an electrical disruption in the in the heart’s electrical system which can usually signify a problem with the heart’s natural pacemaker or disruption on the electrical pathways. This can sometimes be fatal as the heart is not pumping enough blood around the body to meet demand.

Those who are experiencing Bradycardia may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Near-fainting or fainting
  • Memory problems
  • Chest pains
  • Weakness
  • Tiring easily

If you think you’re suffering from Bradycardia, it is imperative you seek medical advice as only medical testing will determine whether you’re experiencing Bradycardia.

Ventricular Tachycardia

This arrhythmia, sometimes shortened to VT or V-Tach is the opposite of Bradycardia as this is where the heart beats too fast at a rate of more than 100 beats per minute for more than three beats in a row.

Similarly, to Bradycardia, V-Tach is caused by a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system. Your heart is controlled by electrical impulses which trigger the contractions of the heart. When this process is disrupted and the impulses are sent too quickly, V-Tach can occur.

There may not be enough time for the heart’s lower chambers to fill with blood prior to pumping, meaning the heart may not be pumping enough blood around the body.

The length of an individual experiencing V-Tach may vary as this arrhythmia doesn’t always cause symptoms, but when it does, people may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Shortage of breath

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing V-Tach, it is important to speak to your GP as they will be able to advise the correct medical precautions for you. 

Ventricular Fibrillation

This is the most serious cardiac arrhythmia a heart can suffer. Ultimately, this heart rhythm causes the heart to enter cardiac arrest.

Unlike Bradycardia and Ventricular Tachycardia, Ventricular Fibrillation causes the heart to stop beating completely and quiver. This means the vital organs are deprived of oxygen-rich blood.

This arrhythmia requires immediate medical attention if treatment is delivered within three to five minutes of the victim collapsing, their survival chance increases from 6% to 74%.

Unlike other arrhythmias, Ventricular Fibrillation does not have any prior symptoms and can occur in any one of any age, regardless of aspects such as age, current health condition, gender and ethnicity which may factor in other medical events.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

As stated before, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can occur with no previous warnings or symptoms.

The heart will suffer an irregular and usually chaotic rhythm, meaning that the whole body is deprived of oxygenated blood. The only treatment for sudden cardiac arrest is effective CPR, performed in a ratio of 30 chest compressions to 2 rescue breaths and a shock from a life-saving defibrillator device.

A defibrillator is a device which has the capability to deliver a life-saving shock to a victim of SCA through the administration of electrode pads. Once successfully attached to the patient’s bare chest, they will begin to analyse the patient’s heart rhythm and relay the data to the device. This data will also determine whether the patient requires a shock or not. Only 2 arrhythmias are shockable, these are V-Tach and Ventricular Fibrillation.

Only 20% of cardiac arrest victims are in a shockable rhythm when the EMS arrives. This statistic could be increased if more SCA victims were to receive immediate attention from bystanders.  Without immediate treatment, 90% - 95% of sudden cardiac arrest victims will not survive.

Conditioned and Ready

Similarly, to other organs in the body, the heart is one of many which can develop various conditions.

As stated before, there are many prevention efforts which an individual can adopt to their life-style, mainly focusing on your overall health as this will positively impact your heart’s health too and decrease your chance of some of the conditions we’ve talked about!

What do you do to look after your ticker? Head on over to our Twitter channel, @imptraining and let us know what you do to ensure you’re looking after your heart. And don’t forget, be sure to look after your heart, and it’ll look after you.