What are heart conditions?

Heart conditions include a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. They can occur as an isolated problem or in combination with other heart conditions. Types of heart conditions include angina (brief, sharp attacks of chest pain), heart attack, atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries), heart failure, cardiovascular disease, and cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). Other heart conditions include congenital heart defects (present at birth), cardiomyopathy (weakened or abnormal heart muscle and function), infections of the heart, and heart valve disorders.

Heart conditions are a leading cause of disease and death in the United States. Substantial numbers of people in the United States have common risk factors for heart conditions, including inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, and diabetes.

Heart disease develops as the result of several causes. Heart defects present at birth (congenital) can cause cardiomyopathy and subsequent congestive cardiac failure. High blood pressure that runs in families is associated with coronary artery disease, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and obesity may lead to an aneurysm, which is a life-threatening bulging and weakening of the wall of an artery that can burst and cause severe hemorrhage. Fortunately, many heart conditions can be effectively prevented or treated with lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures if necessary. Following a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and seeing your health care provider for regular preventive checkups are all ways you can reduce your risk of having a heart condition.

Symptoms of heart conditions vary depending on the specific conditions. Chest pain is a classic symptom of some heart conditions. However, some forms of heart conditions, such as atherosclerosis, may have no apparent symptoms until life-threatening complications develop. In other cases, symptoms may be mild or vague and include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, backache, or a feeling of indigestion. Females with myocardial infarction more often experience nausea rather than chest pain.

Left untreated, heart conditions may be serious, even life threatening. Blood clots can result in stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism and heart attack may lead to heart damage or life-threatening arrhythmias. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as sweating and severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips, fast heart rate, chest pain or pressure, loss of consciousness, severe headache, or sudden numbness or weakness. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for atherosclerosis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent, such as leg pain or chest pressure.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of heart conditions?

Heart conditions cause dysfunction of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs that may result in many different symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of heart conditions

You may experience symptoms of heart conditions daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these heart symptoms can be severe:

CAUSES

What causes heart conditions?

Heart conditions have a variety of causes and risk factors. Heart conditions can result from irregularities in heart rhythm (arrhythmias), high blood pressure, heart defects present at birth (congenital), heart infection, malfunctioning heart valves, and cardiomyopathy. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to more serious diseases and conditions affecting many other organs in the body. Hea... Read more about heart conditionscauses

TREATMENTS

How are heart conditions treated?

Treatment of heart conditions begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have heart conditions, your health care provider will ask you to undergo diagnostic testing.

Lifestyle changes and drug therapy are the mainstays of treatment of most heart conditions. Certain heart diseases may be difficult to control, so it is important to follow yo... Read more about heart conditionstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.