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Overview of Heart Disease

Heart disease (also called cardiovascular disease) is a term that describes a series of conditions related to the heart. Conditions which are considered heart diseases include coronary artery disease, cardiac (heart) infections, valve disorders, congenital heart defects, and arrhythmias (cardiac rhythm problems).

Overview of Heart Disease

Symptoms of Heart and Vascular Conditions

Cardiovascular disease occurs when vessels become blocked, narrowed, or stiffened from plaque, and the heart muscle, brain, and body do not receive enough blood. The symptoms are:

Chest pain

Shortness of breath

Leg and arm pain, numbness, and weakness

Heart Disease

Symptoms of Arrhythmias

The term arrhythmia means abnormal heartbeat. This occurs when the heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly. Symptoms include:

Racing heartbeat

Slow heartbeat

Fluttering in the chest

Chest pain

Shortness of breath




Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects are abnormalities that people have at birth. Symptoms are:

Pale or bluish skin color

Swelling of the abdomen or legs

Shortness of breath

Poor weight gain

Exercise fatigue

Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a thickened, stiff heart muscle. In the early stages of cardiomyopathy, there are no symptoms. However, as the condition worsens, symptoms include:

Shortness of breath on exertion

Shortness of breath at rest

Swelling of the hands, legs, feet, and ankles

Abdominal bloating

Chronic fatigue

Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting

Irregular heartbeats

Symptoms of Heart Infections

The three types of heart infections are pericarditis, myocarditis, and endocarditis. Pericarditis affects the pericardium heart tissue. Myocarditis affects the myocardium (middle layer of the heart). Endocarditis affects the inner membrane (endocardium), which separates the valves and heart chambers. Symptoms of these infections are:

Shortness of breath

Weakness and fatigue


Swelling of the abdomen and legs

Changes in heart rhythm

Dry, persistent cough

Skin rashes

Symptoms of Valve Disorders

There are four heart valves: aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid valves. These valves open and close during blood flow. Valves can become narrow (stenosis), leak (regurgitation and insufficiency), or not close properly (prolapse). Symptoms of these conditions include:


Shortness of breath

Swollen feet and ankles

Chest pain

Irregular heartbeat

Heart murmur

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

Causes of Heart Disease

Atherosclerosis – When fatty plaques build up in the arteries (called atherosclerosis), it damages the vessels and heart. With atherosclerosis, the blood flow is restricted. Because the blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body and heart muscle, this results in damage.

Arteriosclerosis – When the arteries are not strong and flexible, blood pressure rises, making the walls of the arteries thick and stiff (arteriosclerosis).

Arrhythmias – Numerous factors contribute to arrhythmias, including diabetes, smoking, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, excessive use of alcohol or caffeine, stress, valve disease, and medications.

Congenital heart defects – Heart defects are caused by genes and medications that change the structure and function of the heart and vessels.

Cardiomyopathy – With dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart's left ventricle becomes dilated and doesn't pump adequately. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when there is thickening of the heart muscle, which affects the heart's ability to deliver blood to the body. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is where the heart muscle becomes stiff and elastic, unable to expand to fill blood between heartbeats.

Heart Infection – The various heart infections are caused by irritants, such as chemicals, viruses, and bacteria.

Valve Disease – Damage to the heart valves is caused by infections, connective tissue disorders, rheumatic fever, certain medications, and radiation therapy.

Diagnosis Heart Disease

To diagnose heart disease, the doctor will need to conduct several diagnostic tests. These include:

Blood tests – This includes cell counts, cholesterol, triglycerides, and specific cardiac marker blood analyses.

Chest x-ray – This is done to evaluate the size of the heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) – This is done to evaluate the heart rhythm.

Echocardiogram – This is an ultrasound of the heart done to evaluate cardiac output.

Cardiac catheterization – This invasive test is done to evaluate heart chamber pressure and vessel health.

Heart biopsy – This is a tissue sample done to assess heart damage.

Heart CT and MRI – These scans are done to assess for calcium buildup in the arteries and to determine the cause of heart disease.

Treatment of Heart Disease

There are numerous cardiac treatment options. The goal of treatment is to correct the problem, eliminate or decrease complications, and alleviate symptoms. Therapies include:

Lifestyle changes


Medical procedures



Cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)

Heart transplant 

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    admin 1/01/2023 3:33 PM


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