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 (arrhythmias); and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects), among others.
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.
Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.
The information on this page is sourced from The Mayo Clinic.
Source: GARD Last updated on 05-01-20
Heart disease symptoms depend on what type of heart disease you have.
Cardiovascular disease symptoms may be different for men and women. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain; women are more likely to have other symptoms along with chest discomfort, such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue.
Symptoms can include:
You might not be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until you have a heart attack, angina, stroke or heart failure. It's important to watch for cardiovascular symptoms and discuss concerns with your doctor. Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular evaluations.
A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. Heart arrhythmia symptoms can include:
Serious congenital heart defects — defects you're born with — usually become evident soon after birth. Heart defect symptoms in children could include:
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:
In early stages of cardiomyopathy, you may have no symptoms. As the condition worsens, symptoms may include:
Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart (endocardium). Heart infection symptoms can include:
The heart has four valves — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid 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:
Seek emergency medical care if you have these heart disease symptoms:
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.
If you think you may have heart disease, based on new signs or symptoms you're having, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Last updated on 05-01-20
Your heart is a pump. It's a muscular organ about the size of your fist, situated slightly left of center in your chest. Your heart is divided into the right and the left side. The division prevents oxygen-rich blood from mixing with oxygen-poor blood. Oxygen-poor blood returns to the heart after circulating through your body.
Four valves within your heart keep your blood moving the right way by opening only one way and only when they need to. To function properly, the valve must be formed properly, must open all the way and must close tightly so there's no leakage. The four valves are:
A beating heart contracts and relaxes in a continuous cycle.
Your heart's electrical wiring keeps it beating, which controls the continuous exchange of oxygen-rich blood with oxygen-poor blood. This exchange keeps you alive.
The causes of heart disease vary by type of heart disease.
While cardiovascular disease can refer to different heart or blood vessel problems, the term is often used to mean damage to your heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis (ath-ur-o-skluh-ROE-sis), a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. Plaque buildup thickens and stiffens artery walls, which can inhibit blood flow through your arteries to your organs and tissues.
Atherosclerosis is also the most common cause of cardiovascular disease. It can be caused by correctable problems, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking.
Common causes of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or conditions that can lead to arrhythmias include:
In a healthy person with a normal, healthy heart, it's unlikely for a fatal arrhythmia to develop without some outside trigger, such as an electrical shock or the use of illegal drugs. That's primarily because a healthy person's heart is free from any abnormal conditions that cause an arrhythmia, such as an area of scarred tissue.
However, in a heart that's diseased or deformed, the heart's electrical impulses may not properly start or travel through the heart, making arrhythmias more likely to develop.
Congenital heart defects usually develop while a baby is in the womb. Heart defects can develop as the heart develops, about a month after conception, changing the flow of blood in the heart. Some medical conditions, medications and genes may play a role in causing heart defects.
Heart defects can also develop in adults. As you age, your heart's structure can change, causing a heart defect.
The cause of cardiomyopathy, a thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle, may depend on the type:
A heart infection, such as endocarditis, is caused when an irritant, such as a bacterium, virus or chemical, reaches your heart muscle. The most common causes of heart infection include:
There are many causes of diseases of your heart valves. You may be born with valvular disease, or the valves may be damaged by conditions such as:
Risk factors for developing heart disease include:
Complications of heart disease include:
Certain types of heart disease, such as heart defects, can't be prevented. However, you can help prevent many other types of heart disease by making the same lifestyle changes that can improve your heart disease, such as:
Last updated on 05-01-20
The tests you'll need to diagnose your heart disease depend on what condition your doctor thinks you might have. No matter what type of heart disease you have, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask about your personal and family medical history before doing any tests. Besides blood tests and a chest X-ray, tests to diagnose heart disease can include:
Cardiac catheterization. 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 that artery until it reaches your heart.
The pressures in your heart chambers can be measured, and dye can be injected. The dye can be seen on an X-ray, which helps your doctor see the blood flow through your heart, blood vessels and valves to check for abnormalities.
Last updated on 05-01-20
Heart disease treatments vary by condition. For instance, if you have a heart infection, you'll likely be given antibiotics. In general, treatment for heart disease usually includes:
Heart disease can be improved — or even prevented — by making certain lifestyle changes. The following changes can help anyone who wants to improve heart health:
Check your cholesterol. Ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test when you're in your 20s and then at least every five years. You may need to start testing earlier if high cholesterol is in your family. If your test results aren't within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements.
Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.4 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, you should aim for an LDL below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you're at very high risk of heart disease — if you've already had a heart attack or have diabetes, for example — aim for an even lower LDL level — below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L).
Move. Exercise helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease. If you have a heart arrhythmia or heart defect, there may be some restrictions on the activities you can do, so talk to your doctor.
With your doctor's OK, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
Also, get regular medical checkups. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better heart health.
You may feel frustrated, upset or overwhelmed upon learning you or your loved one has heart disease. Fortunately, there are ways to help cope with heart disease or improve your condition. These include:
Last updated on 05-01-20
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