Heart Disease, Symptoms & Diagnosis

The heart is a muscular organ about the size of a fist, located just behind and slightly left of the breastbone.

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.

Symptoms

  • 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

Heart arrhythmia symptoms can include:

  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting

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

Signs and symptoms of congenital heart defects 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) 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, lightheadedness and fainting

Heart disease symptoms caused by heart infections 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 generally include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting (syncope)

Causes of Cardiovascular Disease

Atherosclerosis is caused by correctable problems, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking.

Causes of heart arrhythmia

  • Heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects)
  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine
  • Drug abuse
  • Stress
  • Some over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies
  • Valvular heart disease

Causes of congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defects usually develop while a baby is in the womb. Some medical conditions, medications and genes may play a role in causing heart defects.

Causes of cardiomyopathy

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy.

Causes of heart infection

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Parasites

Causes of valvular heart disease

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Infections (infectious endocarditis)
  • Connective tissue disorders

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Poor diet
  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Stress
  • Poor hygiene

Complications

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Sudden cardiac arrest

Diagnosis

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL & HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • Lipoprotein (a)
  • CRP
  • Homocysteine
  • HsCRP
  • CK-MB
  • Troponin - T, I (High Sensitive)
  • BNP and NT-proBNP
  • Apolipoproteins A1 & B
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Holter monitoring
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

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