Managing Heart Disease

We don't mean to scare you, but heart disease is very serious. And we want to help you get it under control ASAP.

 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease - more than 650,000 Americans every single year.

Symptoms of heart disease in your blood vessels (atherosclerotic disease)

Cardiovascular disease symptoms may be different for men and women. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain; women are more likely to have other symptoms along with chest discomfort, such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue.

Symptoms can include:

  • 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

 

You might not be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until you have a heart attack, angina, stroke or heart failure. It's important to watch for cardiovascular symptoms and discuss concerns with your doctor. Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular evaluations.

Heart disease symptoms caused by abnormal heartbeats (heart arrhythmias)

A heart arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. 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 disease symptoms caused by weak heart muscle (dilated cardiomyopathy)

In early stages of cardiomyopathy, you may have no symptoms. As the condition worsens, symptoms 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

Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart (endocardium). Heart infection symptoms 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

The heart has four valves — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid valves — that open and close to direct blood flow through your heart. Valves may be damaged by a variety of conditions leading to narrowing (stenosis), leaking (regurgitation or insufficiency) or improper closing (prolapse).

Depending on which valve isn't working properly, valvular heart disease symptoms generally include:

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Swollen feet or ankles

  • Chest pain

  • Fainting (syncope)

When to see a doctor

Seek emergency medical care if you have these heart disease symptoms:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fainting

Heart disease is easier to treat when detected early, so talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding your heart health. If you're concerned about developing heart disease, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. This is especially important if you have a family history of heart disease.