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Heart Disease

Heart Disease

The term "heart disease" is often used interchangeably with the term "cardiovascular disease." Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart's muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.

Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmia's); and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects), among others. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Heart disease symptoms caused by abnormal heartbeats (heart arrhythmia's) A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. Heart arrhythmia symptoms can include:

·         Fluttering in your chest

·         Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)

·         Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)

·         Chest pain or discomfort

·         Shortness of breath

·         Lightheartedness

·         Dizziness

·         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 (hypnosis)

·         Swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes

·         In an infant, shortness of breath during feedings, leading to poor weight gain

Less serious congenital heart defects are often not diagnosed until later in childhood or during adulthood. Signs and symptoms of congenital heart defects that usually aren't immediately life-threatening include:

·         Easily getting short of breath during exercise or activity

·         Easily tiring during exercise or activity

·         Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet

Heart disease symptoms caused by weak heart muscle (dilated cardiomyopathy): In early stages of cardiomyopathy, you may have no symptoms. As the condition worsens, symptoms may include:

·         Breathlessness with exertion or at rest

·         Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet

·         Fatigue

·         Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering

·         Dizziness, lightheartedness and fainting

Heart disease symptoms caused by heart infections: Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart (myocardium). Heart infection symptoms can include:

·         Fever

·         Shortness of breath

·         Weakness or fatigue

·         Swelling in your legs or abdomen

·         Changes in your heart rhythm

·         Dry or persistent cough

·         Skin rashes or unusual spots

Heart disease symptoms caused by valvular heart disease: The heart has four valves — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and bicuspid valves — that open and close to direct blood flow through your heart. Valves may be damaged by a variety of conditions leading to narrowing (stenosis), leaking (regurgitation or insufficiency) or improper closing (prolapse). Depending on which valve isn't working properly, valvular heart disease symptoms generally include:

·         Fatigue

·         Shortness of breath

·         Irregular heartbeat

·         Swollen feet or ankles

·         Chest pain

·         Fainting (syncope)

When to see a doctor: Seek emergency medical care if you have these heart disease symptoms:

·         Chest pain

·         Shortness of breath

·         Fainting

Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, so talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding your heart health. If you're concerned about developing heart disease, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. This is especially important if you have a family history of heart disease.

General symptoms of heart disease

·         Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)

·         Shortness of breath

·         Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed

·         Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

Risk factors: Risk factors for developing heart disease include:

·         Age. Aging increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle.

·         Sex. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, women's risk increases after menopause.

·         Family history. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).

·         Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.

·         Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer. Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.


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