CHD – Overview

The heart is a complex organ with four chambers and various valves, arteries, and veins that work together to pump blood throughout the body. In the case of congenital heart disease (CHD), there may be malformations or defects in one or more of these structures, affecting the normal functioning of the heart. CHD describes a collection of a major blood vessel or heart structural defects that exist from birth. During the first eight weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus’ heart is developing, these anomalies frequently occur.

Types of CHD

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) has a number of variations, that include:

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
  • Angina
  • Coronary Vasospasm
  • Silent Ischemia
  • Microvascular Disease
  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Valvular Heart Disease
  • Hypertensive Heart Disease
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease
  • Inflammatory Heart Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Heart Valve Disorders
  • Coronary Embolism
  • Coronary Aneurysm
  • Coronary Arteritis

These are only a few of the several forms of CHD, and each one may have various symptoms, risk factors, and therapeutic options.

Pertinent Data on CHD 

  • One of the most common birth disorders, congenital heart disease (CHD) affects one in every 100 infants globally.
  • Heart defects that are present from birth are referred to as congenital heart defects (CHD).
  • The majority of CHD instances have no known cause, however, some cases do, due to hereditary factors, maternal diseases, or exposure to specific drugs.
  • CHD is not limited to infants and children; it affects individuals across their lifespan, with a growing number of adults living with CHD today.
  • Advances in medical and surgical interventions have significantly improved survival rates for individuals with CHD, with over 90% of babies now reaching adulthood.
  • Despite the increased survival rates, many individuals with CHD require lifelong specialized medical care and multiple surgeries throughout their lives.
  • The economic burden of CHD is substantial, with an estimated annual cost exceeding $2.2 billion for inpatient surgeries and long-term care.
  • CHD can have significant emotional and psychological impacts on individuals and their families, necessitating comprehensive support and counseling services.
  • Despite CHD being substantially more common, despite recent increases in financing and research, it still lags behind other diseases like pediatric cancer.
  • To improve early detection, treatment options, and outcomes for people with CHD, healthcare providers, researchers, and advocacy groups must work together.

What Causes CHD?

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) develops due to various factors that contribute to the formation of plaque in the coronary arteries. The main causes are as follows:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol Levels
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Family History

Primary Signs of CHD

CHD symptoms and indicators can differ from person to person. Some typical signs include:

  • Chest Pain (Angina)
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fatigue
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Dizziness or Fainting
  • Sweating

Some individuals, particularly women and older adults, have the possibility of experiencing atypical symptoms or no symptoms at all, making diagnosis more challenging.

How To Diagnose CHD?

To diagnose CHD and assess its severity, healthcare professionals may employ the following methods:

  • Medical History and Physical Exam: The doctor will perform a physical exam to look for evidence of CHD and will ask about symptoms, risk factors, and medical history.
  • ECG: The electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test that captures the electrical activity of the heart and can be used to spot irregular heartbeats or indicators of a past heart attack.
  • Stress test: This procedure evaluates the function of the heart and looks for any anomalies by tracking how the heart reacts to stress from exercise or medicines.
  • Coronary Angiography: A process that allows for the visualization of the coronary arteries and the detection of any blockages or constrictions using contrast dye and X-ray imaging.
  • Blood Tests: Measuring cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and other markers can provide insights into the individual’s risk factors and overall cardiovascular health.
  • Imaging Tests: Heart shape, function, and blood flow can be evaluated using methods like echocardiography, cardiac CT scanning, or cardiac MRI.

Treatment Options

Treatment for CHD depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition and the specific defects present. In some circumstances, surgery may be required to fix structural issues with the heart. Simple treatments like repairing a hole in the heart to more sophisticated surgeries like reconstructing heart chambers or blood veins are all examples of surgical procedures. These treatments are intended to increase blood flow, reduce symptoms, and stop the heart from suffering additional harm. In addition to surgical interventions, individuals with CHD often require lifelong medical management. This could entail using drugs to treat symptoms, regulate blood pressure, or stop blood clots. To monitor the heart’s function, evaluate the efficacy of medication, and identify any potential issues early on, regular visits to a cardiologist are necessary.

Life with CHD

Living with congenital heart disease (CHD) can present unique challenges and require ongoing medical management. Individuals with CHD face a range of symptoms and limitations that can affect their daily lives. From infancy to adulthood, they may experience fatigue, shortness of breath, limited exercise tolerance, and a higher risk of developing complications such as arrhythmias or heart failure. Despite these challenges, advancements in medical treatments and interventions have significantly improved the prognosis for those living with CHD.

Having CHD frequently makes living a heart-healthy lifestyle necessary. This often entails consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly within safe limits, and abstaining from tobacco and excessive alcohol use. People with CHD may occasionally be advised to avoid engaging in strenuous activities that could put their hearts under undue strain. As people with CHD may feel anxiety, depression, or issues adjusting to the disease, emotional support, education, and counseling are also essential components of managing the condition.

Ways to Aid CHD Patients

  • Educate yourself about CHD to understand the condition better.
  • Help with daily tasks or household chores to alleviate their burden.
  • Accompany them to medical appointments and provide transportation.
  • Assist in medication management, such as organizing pills or setting reminders.
  • Encourage and support a healthy lifestyle by engaging in physical activities together.
  • Cook and provide nutritious meals to promote heart-healthy eating.
  • Offer assistance with financial matters or insurance paperwork related to their healthcare.
  • Help them explore and connect with support groups or CHD communities.
  • Be patient and understanding, as they may experience limitations or fatigue due to their condition.