Anyone who has ever had a “broken heart” (and who hasn’t?) knows that sadness and grief cause not just emotional pain, but also physical pain. And since that pain is often felt in our chest, it makes sense that we call it “heart break”.
The late Elvis Presley made the expression famous with his breakout hit Heartbreak Hotel. And a particularly gruesome battle during the Korean War occurred at a place named Heartbreak Ridge, dramatized in a movie The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.
In this post I’m going to explain some of the ways our physical HEARTS can break.
Last week I gave you a brief overview of the human HEART and how it works.. Here’s the link in case you missed it. It will help before you read this post.
We often use the term HEART DISEASE when there are many diseases that involve the heart. HEART conditions affect people from birth to death.
Heart diseases affect any and sometimes multiple parts of the heart- the atria, ventricles, the valves, the aorta, the pulmonary artery and veins, the walls and the coronary arteries (not shown in this diagram. )
Heart problems that are present at birth are called congenital heart disease. Signs or symptoms may be not apparent for a few weeks or months.
- A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth.
- Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect.
- The defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart.
- They can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely.
I remember how concerned I felt when my son called to tell me the doctor had found a heart murmur in my 3-week-old granddaughter- especially since they lived 2000 miles away. An echocardiogram showed a VSD, a ventricular septal defect– a hole between the two larger chambers of her heart. We were all relieved when the pediatric cardiologist said it was small and unlikely to cause her problems or to need surgery. She gets regular check-ups and is now a healthy, active 10 year old who does karate and loves swimming.
holding my sleepy infant granddaughter
working out with her brother
Other congenital heart conditions
In a previous post I told you about my late friend Chuck who had heart disease. Chuck had developed cardiomyopathy, disease of the heart muscle, which makes up the walls of the heart. Cardiomyopathy has many causes including high blood pressure (if not controlled), ischemia (lack of blood flow), infections, toxins including alcohol, and sometimes unknown causes.
Cardiomyopathy can often be managed with medications and lifestyle but sometimes, as in Chuck’s case, requires heart transplantation.
Chuck’s wife Sara wrote about his heart condition as well as other medical issues in her memoir Trumped By Sovereignty.
Sarah displaying her book soon after the Presidential election . Is that the President-elect’s name?
My late father developed diabetes mellitus which led to atherosclerosis of his coronary arteries, the arteries that carry oxygen to the heart itself. Atherosclerosis can affect any of the arteries and basically means “hardening”, hence the term hardening of the arteries.
In his case this caused a heart attack, which in medical terms is a
myocardial (heart muscle) infarction(death or damage).
From the damage to his heart muscle he developed congestive heart failure; his heart could not effectively pump blood to his body.
In sudden cardiac death, the heart stops beating abruptly
I still remember the night I received a phone call soon after going to bed. It was an EMT from the local ambulance service telling me he was at my parents’ home. My mother called 911 after my father collapsed at home and died from sudden cardiac death.
Sudden cardiac death occurs when someone with heart disease dies suddenly and unexpectedly. But sometimes, unlike my father’s case, the victim and family didn’t know a heart condition existed. This is often the case when someone dies from a sudden and persistent irregularity of the heart rhythm, called an arrhythmia.
My late father served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War
Both my husband and I have hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. This is probably the most common cardiovascular disease . Although not a heart condition, it can cause disease in the heart and other vital organs, as shown in this diagram .
Please follow any of the above links to read more about these and other heart conditions. Next post I will talk about how to keep our hearts healthy.
We can keep our heart from breaking.
Please leave a comment to share your own experience with heart disease or to honor a loved one with a heart condition.