• Your Heart & Arteries

     
     
     
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    Most people never give much thought to their heart and arteries until something goes wrong. This is a testament to how seamlessly the heart and arteries function as part of your cardiovascular system. Every day the heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through blood vessels to carry critical oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body and remove waste products. This all takes place while you are working, sleeping, shopping, exercising - during everything that you do.

    When something does go wrong, it can be frightening. Cardiovascular disease is serious - and it can have serious consequences for people at all stages of life.

    That's why it is important to understand that everyone is at risk.

    • Many people think heart disease is an illness of the elderly. Not true - each year in the United States, approximately 36,000 children are born with heart defects.
    • You may think of cardiovascular disease as a men's disease. Not true - cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both women and men in the United States and in many other parts of the world. 

    In short, heart health is a priority for everyone.

    If heart disease can potentially affect everyone, how does it happen in the first place? Problems of the heart and arteries can develop in two ways:  over time or from birth.

    1. Heart disease that develops over time is called acquired cardiovascular disease. Everyone sustains damage to the cardiovascular system as  part of the aging process. Additionally, lifestyle and genetic factors can come into play.

    2. Cardiovascular disease that is present at birth is called congenital heart disease. Heart defects and other forms of congenital heart disease are often diagnosed in children but are sometimes not identified until adulthood.

    Fortunately, treatment options for both acquired and congenital heart disease are improving all the time. Today, compared to 30 years ago, roughly one-third more children born with congenital heart defects survive to adulthood, according to a report from the American Heart Association. For patients with acquired cardiovascular disease, the one-year mortality rate after a heart attack is now only 4 to 8 percent – a dramatic improvement compared to the 40 percent death rate of just 30 years ago.

    These are impressive gains, but there is more work to be done, and it starts with understanding how the cardiovascular system works.

    Follow the SecondsCount links below to

    • understand the scope of cardiovascular disease in the United States
    • learn how your heart and blood vessels function
    • know what happens when something goes wrong

    If you or someone you love has cardiovascular disease, or has risk factors for heart disease, please also take time to learn more about the Cardiovascular Care Team, so you know whom to turn to – and whom to work with – to develop a personalized plan for prevention, early diagnosis, and effective treatment.

  • More About Your Heart & Arteries

    Who Is Affected by Cardiovascular Disease

    In one way or another, cardiovascular disease affects all Americans. It may affect you, a family member, or a friend. Read on to find out more about who is at risk for heart disease in America.

    Who Is Affected by Congenital Heart Disease

    Congenital heart disease—heart disease that is present at birth—is the most common type of birth defect. Approximately 1 out of every 150 babies is born with some form of congenital heart disease. While congenital heart defects are common, not all cases are serious enough to require treatment. In cases where treatment is necessary, advances in medical technology and practice are making it possible for more patients than ever to not only survive into adulthood but to do so with a high quality of life.

    Your Arteries

    Arteries are strong tubes, or vessels, that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. There are more than 20 arteries throughout the body, which then branch out into many smaller tubes. This extensive network carries blood to all parts of the body.

    Your Blood

    The average person has about 1 gallon to 1½ gallons (4 to 6 liters) of blood circulating in his or her body. And your heart pumps the whole blood volume every minute. That is to say that five liters of blood flows though your heart every minute.

    Your Cardiovascular Care Team

    A primary care physician such as your family physician, an internist, or an obstetrician/gynecologist may be the first to determine that you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease and to initiate treatments. This physician might recommend dietary changes, exercise and medications. Or your primary care doctor may refer you to a heart specialist, or cardiologist, for further diagnosis and treatment.

    Your Cardiovascular System

    The human body has different systems for handling different functions. All of these systems are vital for health and life. Your heart and arteries are part of the cardiovascular system. The cardiovascular system distributes blood throughout your body.

    Your Heart

    In an average lifespan, a person's heart will beat 2.5 to 3 billion times, pushing blood to all parts of the body. The heart is a relatively small, muscular organ, roughly the size of your fist. Exactly how does such a small muscle push blood through arteries and blood vessels to all tissue in your body? Learn about the heart’s structure and how it functions to support the human body.

    Your Veins

    Veins are elastic tubes, or vessels, that carry blood from your organs and tissues of the body back to your heart. Veins are different from arteries. But together veins and arteries form an important network to transport blood throughout the body.