What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States among men and women. It refers to a large grouping of conditions and disorders, and symptoms vary depending on both degree and kind of heart disease. Nonetheless, most cardiovascular diseases are preceded by arterial fatty deposits which lead to inflammation and blockage of blood vessels, a condition known as Atherosclerosis.
Cardiovascular disease symptoms differ between the two genders, with men more likely to experience chest pain and women more likely to have other symptoms, like chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, and extreme fatigue.
Heart disease in the blood vessels
Atherosclerosis, which represents the effective entirety of vascular diseases, is also the most common precursor of other forms of heart disease, because it puts undue stress on the entire system. The heart pump has to exert more energy to move blood through constricted arteries, and constricted arteries are weakened and therefore at risk of aneurysm.
Symptoms of atherosclerosis can include:
- Angina (lack of blood flow to the heart muscle)
- pain, tightness, pressure, or general discomfort in the chest, often resulting from angina
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness of the extremities due to ischemia (lack of blood flow)
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen, or back
Heart disease symptoms caused by arrhythmia
Heart arrhythmia refers to:
- Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
- Bradycardia (decreased heart rate)
- Fibrillation (irregular interval between heartbeats)
Symptoms of arrhythmia include:
- Fluttering in your chest
- Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
Heart disease symptoms caused by heart defects
Serious congenital heart defects — defects you’re born with — usually become evident soon after birth. Heart defect symptoms in children could include:
- Pale gray or blue skin color (cyanosis)
- Swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes
- In an infant, shortness of breath during feedings, leading to poor weight gain
Causes of heart disease
The heart is a ‘pump’, blood vessels are ‘pipes, and the heart’s job is to pump blood through those pipes, which connect to every cell in the body and supply them with oxygen and nutrients, and carry away waste. This is simple but vital, and if blood flow is prevented for even a few minutes, cell death can occur; this is why strokes and heart attacks are so deadly.
Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of heart disease, and it’s caused by the accumulation of fat within the walls of blood vessels, reducing the diameter of the ‘pipes’. This causes two problems:
- It forces the heart to do more work to pump blood through the narrowed vessels.
- It reduces blood flow to the tissue downstream of the fatty buildups, which occur ubiquitously throughout the vascular system, affecting all parts of the body equally.
Reduced blood flow to the heart eventually damages the heart muscle, leading to myocardial infarction (loss of blood flow to the heart muscle), also known as a heart attack. When this occurs in the brain instead of the heart, it’s called a stroke.
In congenital heart disease, babies who are developing in the womb will have heart defects. Their hearts will develop holes in the walls that separate the oxygen-rich side from the oxygen-poor side, this is a grave problem that results in improper flow of blood and post birth complications in babies. Prognosis is typically bleak.
Endocarditis is inflammation of the heart’s internal lining, known as the endocardium, caused by a bacterial infection in the body which enters the blood and accumulates in the heart.
Pericarditis is inflammation of the heart’s external lining, a sac known as the pericardium, caused by a viral infection. Inflammation of this sac puts pressure on the heart muscle, eventually causing immense chest pain or angina.
Diagnosis of heart disease
Often, a heart attack is the first symptom of heart disease. It’s important to watch for the more subtle cardiovascular disease symptoms and risk factors, like obesity or shortness of breath after mild exertion, and to discuss any and all concerns with your doctor. Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early through regular evaluations.
If you are at risk, there are several tests that can be performed to rule out other disorders and determine exactly what’s going on in your chest. They include:
An ECG records these electrical signals and can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart’s rhythm and structure. You may have an ECG while you’re at rest or while exercising (stress electrocardiogram).
In this test, a short tube (sheath) is inserted into a vein or artery in your leg (groin) or arm. A hollow, flexible and longer tube (guide catheter) is then inserted into the sheath. Aided by X-ray images on a monitor, your doctor threads the guide catheter through your femoral artery until it reaches your heart.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
For this test, you lie on a table inside a long tube-like machine that looks like a donut and produces a magnetic field. The donut shaped tube will produce pictures to help your doctor evaluate your heart.
Current treatment options and best practices for heart disease
Heart disease treatments vary by condition. If a patient has atherosclerosis then a catheter may be a useful method of treatment followed by a stent to open up the pathway enough to let the blockage move out. Other, if you have a heart infection, the physician would probably prescribe an antibiotic to fight the bacteria or virus. In general, treatment for heart disease usually includes:
- Lifestyle changes. Simply eating a diet low in fat and sodium, and exercising for 30 minutes a couple days per week can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease. In addition, for patients at-risk or diagnosed with heart disease, abstaining from tobacco and alcohol is highly recommended.
- Medications. If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your heart disease. The type of medication will depend on the type of heart disease, but most medications work by stabilizing heart rate and blood pressure.
- Medical procedures or surgery. If medications aren’t enough, it’s possible your doctor will recommend specific procedures or surgery. The type of procedure will depend on the type of heart disease and the extent of the damage to your heart.
Is endocannabinoid deficiency involved in Heart Disease?
This endocannabinoid system (ECS), popularized by the discovery of the CB1 & CB2 receptors and their binding molecules, is involved in a huge variety of diseases. From neurological to inflammatory diseases to autoimmune phenomena even to cancer; the endocannabinoid system is involved in nearly every other system of the body. Cannabidiol has had huge gains in popularity, not just for its interesting role on CB1 and CB2 receptors, but its role outside the classical definition of the endocannabinoid system.
As for involvement in heart disease, research suggests that the endocannabinoid system has baseline anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic (cell death), and antioxidant responsibilities in the cardiovascular system. Because the ECS is responsible for these key facets of heart homeostasis, deficiencies of the ECS could certainly contribute to risk of heart disease.
Does CBD improve cases of heart disease?
According to a study, administration of 50 micrograms CBD per kg of body weight to rats, prior to and following an induced heart attack, reduced the volume of dead heart tissue. CBD effectively reduced the size of the infarction, likely by preventing the production of endotoxins and pro-inflammatory cytokines, part of the body’s response to injury which actually progress tissue damage.
Further studies have demonstrated that by decreasing the tension of arteries, the chance of inflammation is reduced. As early as 1960, it was acknowledged in the United States that cannabinoids had cardiovascular effects. Recent research has shown in live animals that cannabinoids result in decreased blood pressure and lowered heart rates. This carries enormous implications for the cardiovascular research community.
Cannabinoids like CBD, interact with CB1 receptors, which are 10x more abundant than other receptors in the nervous system of humans. This includes the nerves which set and regulate the behavior of the heart. Furthermore, receptors are found in the heart muscle and in the immune cells found in the heart.
Scientists agree that the endocannabinoid system is a promising target for therapeutic treatments for heart disease. CBD’s abilities to reduce cardiovascular inflammation, decrease hypertension, prevent the production of endotoxins, and regulate heart rate, make it a prime candidate for preventing heart diseases from occurring, and treating them without adverse side effects when they do occur.