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Heart disease is a word used to describe many different conditions affecting the heart. Coronary heart disease is a common type of heart disease. This condition results from a buildup of plaque on the inside of the arteries, which reduces blood flow to the heart and increases the risk of a heart attack and other heart complications. Other forms of heart disease include:
Approximately 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC). It’s a leading cause of death in both men and women.
Heart disease is often called a “silent killer”. Your doctor may not diagnose the disease until you show signs of a heart attack or heart failure. Symptoms of heart disease vary depending on the specific condition. For example, if you have a heart arrhythmia, symptoms may include:
Symptoms of congenital heart defect may include skin discoloration, such as a bluish or pale color. You may also notice swelling in your legs and stomach. You might become easily tired or have shortness of breath shortly after beginning any type of physical activity.
If you have weak heart muscles, physical activity may cause tiredness and shortness of breath. Dizziness and swelling in the legs, ankle, or feet are also common with cardiomyopathy. Signs and symptoms of a heart infection can include:
Seek medical attention if you have any signs of heart problem. It’s important to address symptoms early since there are many types of heart diseases, each with its own set of symptoms.
Several factors increase your risk of heart disease, like a family history of the disease, age, or ethnicity. Other common risk factors include:
Different tests are used to diagnose heart disease, and your doctor may choose a particular test based on your symptoms and a review of your family history. After a blood test and chest X-ray, other tests include:
Heart disease treatments depend on the condition, but may include lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes can include:
When lifestyle changes do not improve your conditions, doctors may prescribe certain medications to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. These include medications that lower blood pressure or prevent blood clotting.
Sometimes, medical procedures are necessary to treat certain types of heart disease. These include an angioplasty (a flexible tube inserted in arteries to improve blood flow) or a coronary artery bypass surgery (blood vessels surgically moved from one area of the body to another to improve blood flow to the heart).
Between the cost of healthcare and lost productivity, coronary heart disease costs the United States $108.9 billion annually according to the CDC. It’s important to diagnose and treat heart disease early. If left untreated, heart disease can cause a variety of complications, such as a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, aneurysm, and even death. Talk to your doctor if you think you have any symptoms of heart disease.
Written by: Valencia Higuera
Published on: Aug 12, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Aug 12, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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