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Symptoms and Signs of Heart Disease Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Doctor's Notes on Heart Disease Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Heart disease (cardiac disease) describes any disorder that affects the heart. It is not the same as cardiovascular disease, which is any disease of the heart blood vessels.

Some people with heart disease may have no apparent symptoms. Arteries may be blocked 50% or more without causing any symptoms. When symptoms of heart disease do occur they may include palpitations (a sensation of rapid or very strong heart beats in your chest), dizziness, light-headedness, fainting, weakness on exertion or at rest, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and chest pain on exertion (angina pectoris). Sudden cardiac arrest can occur when the heart suddenly stops beating effectively. This condition can be fatal. Cardiac arrest typically occurs in people who have had previous heart attacks, but it may occur as the first symptom of heart disease.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Heart Disease Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention Symptoms

Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms that suggest it may be angina. Chest pain, pressure or feeling of indigestion after physical exertion, which may or may not be relieved by rest. Shoulder or arm pain involving left, right, or both sides during physical or mentally stressful activity; jaw pain, unexplained by another cause; like a sore tooth;  shortness of breath after exertion or walking uphill, fainting spells, and pain in the upper part of your abdomen. Call your doictor if you have  nausea, vomiting, or sweating; or  palpitations or dizziness and you don't know the cause.

The most common symptoms of heart attacks are unremitting or prolonged chest pain, chest pressure, or a feeling like heartburn, shoulder or arm pains (left or right) or upper abdominal pain that won't go away, shortness of breath after minimal activity or while resting, blackout spells, unexplained profuse sweating with or without nausea or vomiting, or frequent chest pain or discomfort at rest. 

Call 911 or have someone take you immediately to a hospital emergency department if you have warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack

The most devastating sign of coronary heart disease is abrupt, unexpected cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest commonly occurs in people who have had previous heart attacks, but it may occur as the first symptom of heart disease. Most people exhibit some symptom or discomfort. Symptoms usually occur during exercise or activity because the heart muscle's increased demand for nutrients and oxygen is not being met by the blocked coronary blood vessel.  Chest pain on exertion (angina pectoris), which may be relieved by rest.

More common symptoms of coronary heart disease include palpitations (a sensation of rapid or very strong heart beats in your chest), dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting, and weakness on exertion or at rest, irregular heart beat (arryhmia) and an Irregular heartbeat. Silent ischemia is a condition in which no symptoms occur even though an electrocardiogram (ECG, or heart tracing) and/or other tests show evidence of ischemia. Arteries may be blocked 50% or more without causing any symptoms.

No one person usually has all of these symptoms.

Heart Disease Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention Causes

What Causes Heart Disease?

Coronary heart disease is caused by any problem with the coronary arteries that keeps the heart from getting enough oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of heart disease. Ischemia is the lack of sufficient blood so coronary heart disease is sometimes called ischemic heart disease.

Sometimes the term "heart disease" is used narrowly and incorrectly as a synonym for coronary artery disease. Heart disease is synonymous with cardiac disease, but not with cardiovascular disease which is any disease of the heart or blood vessels.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

Multiple risk factors cause coronary heart disease is related to multiple risk factors. The most common risk factors are heredity (coronary heart disease runs in the family); and high cholesterol (levels of cholesterol in the blood are above healthy levels). Usually, it involves high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol. Tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes), but also chewing tobacco, obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, lack of regular exercise, high-fat diet, emotional stress, and type A personality (impatient, aggressive, competitive).

Heart Disease Symptoms, Signs, and Causes Slideshow

Heart Disease Symptoms, Signs, and Causes Slideshow

The heart is the hardest working muscle in the body. The average heart beats 100,000 times a day, day and night, to supply oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Blood pumped by the heart also shuttles waste products such as carbon dioxide to the lungs so it can be eliminated from the body. Proper heart function is essential to support life.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

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