Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, takes a look at some of the most common disorders that are associated with the circulatory system, the signs and symptoms you should watch for, and how the disorders can be treated. It is important to note that, in addition to genetics, several of these disorders can also often be a result of one’s lifestyle, such as stress, obesity and lack of physical activity.
Anemia – Characterized by a deficiency in hemoglobin or red blood cells and and affects millions of individuals globally. Anemia can be caused by blood loss, a decrease in red blood cells, or the destruction of red blood cells. It can affect individuals of all ages – though those at a higher risk of developing anemia include women who are pregnant and individuals with Crohn’s disease. Having a diet that lacks iron can also lead to anemia. The most common symptom that is associated with anemia is fatigue. Treatment of anemia can be as simple as making small changes to your diet. In severe cases, you may need to take an iron supplement, which can be found at most pharmacies and sometimes even health food or vitamin stores.
Arrhythmia – A life-threatening condition due to abnormal electrical activity of the heart, causing irregular heartbeat. There are two classifications of this condition: Tachycardia and Bradycardia. Tachycardia occurs when the heart beats more than 100 beats per minute, which can deprive the brain and the body of oxygen. Bradycardia is when the heart beats abnormally; usually less than 60 beats per minute. Both types of arrhythmia come with similar symptoms including fatigue, fainting, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.
Arteriosclerosis – Also known as hardening of the arteries, which occurs over several years. It can be caused by a number of factors such as smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Symptoms of arteriosclerosis are not always present, but signs and symptoms that one should watch for include high blood pressure, impaired circulation, as well as kidney infections.
Atherosclerosis – Another condition that can result in hardening as well as narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to complete blockage and cause a condition known as coronary artery disease.
Cardiomyopathy – A condition of the heart muscle (myocardium) that leads to ventricular dysfunction. It is thought to be a condition that is genetic, and can be discovered on chest X-Ray’s and ECGs.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – Occurs when the heart is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood to other organs in the body. CHF can be a result of other health conditions such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, as well as if you’ve had previous heart attacks. Symptoms of congestive heart failure include edema (also known as swelling) of the ankles and legs, in addition to shortness of breath.
Varicose Veins – A condition that causes veins to become enlarged and appear as if they are bulging. Varicose veins can be a result of pregnancy, standing for long periods of time, as well as aging. Tired/aching limbs is one of the most common symptoms associated with this condition – and, in some cases, the veins can rupture. To prevent varicose veins, it is recommended that you exercise as well as keep the legs elevated whenever possible. There are also cosmetic procedures that can be done to reduce the visibility of varicose veins.
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