How a Plaque Leads to Congestive Heart Disease


Different signs and symptoms of heart disease, such as increased blood pressure, chest pain, irregular heart rate, etc., result from distinct heart conditions. However, the sign of heart disease ultimately leads to one point: congestive heart disease.

When a plaque forms in the arteries

When the blood is no longer pumped out of the heart and the blood back-flows into the ventricles, congestive heart disease occurs. When a plaque forms in the arteries, there is no way of removing the plaque. The only available solution is to stop the progression of the plaque or to surgically place a stent to allow unimpeded flow of blood. However, if the plaque is not addressed for long period of time, the size of the plaque will grow larger. It is not just fat and cholesterol that contributes to the size of the plaque. In the presence of a disease or inflammation, white blood cells are produced to fight off foreign bodies. In the process of going to the site of infection or inflammation, some of the white blood cells stick to the plaque. The same thing occurs for platelets; platelets adhere to the plaque.

When the plaque begins to significantly impede the blood flow, initial signs and symptoms of congestive heart disease occur. The affected person may experience unexplained weight gain coupled with swelling in the lower part of the body. The right ventricle of the heart is no longer able to efficiently pump blood to the lungs. The blood then pools in the ventricles then drains out the inferior vena cava due to gravity. The inferior vena cava carries venous blood from the lower extremities of the body. Consequently, the blood pools in the legs and swelling occurs. The weight gain is due to the excess blood found in the lower regions of the body. During sleep, the body is in a lying position. The heart is able to pump more because the weight of gravity is evenly distributed throughout the body. The person is expected to urinate more frequently at night to remove excess fluids from the body.

When congestive heart disease worsens

When congestive heart disease worsens, the left side of the heart becomes affected as well. A greater amount of pressure is needed to pump the blood out of the left ventricular to the different cells of the body. Since the heart is unable to generate the minimum pressure, the blood then back-flows into the left ventricle and drains in the lungs. The person will experience respiratory disturbances such as coughing and wheezing. The symptoms are signs that the lungs are filled with fluid. The heart beat and rhythm becomes irregular due to the inefficiency of the ventricles.

Once a small portion of the artery is left for blood flow, the body will exhibit signs of oxygen deficiency such as cyanosis. Cyanosis is the bluish discoloration of the nail beds. Rapid breathing occurs as a way for the body to compensate for the lack of oxygen. If the plaque covers the artery completely, the person will feel heaviness in the chest. Pain is then experienced in the shoulders, which radiates down to the arms, and up to the jaw line. The pattern of the pain is a sign of an approaching heart attack. Without the proper medications, the condition will lead to heart attack.

Prevention is still the best way to avoid any heart disease. Something as simple as a plaque forming in the artery will eventually lead to congestive heart disease. Although heart surgeries- such as heart bypass and heart transplant- are available, proper diet and regular exercise can spare the need for expensive treatments.

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