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What is heart disease?

Heart diseases refer to a range of conditions that affect the heart and its blood vessels. Today, heart diseases are one of the most common causes of death and include conditions like arrhythmia, coronary artery disease and congenital heart disease. Heart attack and heart failure are two of the commonest types of heart diseases around the world.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Symptoms associated with an atherosclerotic (blood vessel narrowing) disease include:

  • Chest tightness, pain (common among men) and discomfort (common among women).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain radiating to the jaw, neck, back and lower abdomen
  • Numbness, pain and weakness in the arms and legs

Symptoms associated with arrhythmias are:

  • Fluttering feeling in the heart.
  • Palpitations and dizziness.
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate).
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate).
  • Breathlessness.

Symptoms associated with heart defects or heart failure are:

  • Pale, bluish skin colour in infants.
  • The infant may have poor weight gain due to shortness of breath while feeding, thus an aversion to food.
  • Swelling in the hands, legs and stomach.
  • One may easily feel tired after exercises or certain physical activities.

Symptoms associated with heart infections include:

  • Night sweats and chills.
  • Cough.
  • Heart murmurs.
  • Pain in the chest, abdomen, fingers and toes.

What are the main causes?

The causes of heart diseases differ according to the type of disease and may include:

  • Atherosclerotic heart disease: Unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and smoking.
  • Arrhythmias: Congenital (present since birth) heart defects, diabetes, high blood pressure, drug abuse, smoking and stress.
  • Heart defects: Certain medications or health conditions of the pregnant mother or genetic factors affect the development of the foetal heart.
  • Heart infections: Caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites reaching the heart through the bloodstream. Rheumatic heart disease, syphilis, valvular heart diseases and surgeries of the heart or oral cavity make the heart more susceptible to infections.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

History and physical examination along with a number of investigations aid in diagnosing heart diseases.

Investigations include:

  • Blood test to assess cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Stress test.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG).
  • Echocardiogram (2D Echo).
  • Tilt tests.
  • Electrophysiologic tests.
  • Coronary angiogram.
  • CT (computed tomography) scan.

Treatment of heart diseases involves a number of lifestyle changes apart from medications. Avoid smoking and drinking excess alcohol.

Your doctor will advise you to eat a low-fat diet and indulge in exercises or walk for at least 30 minutes every day. Medications will be required in order to lower high blood pressure and reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

Depending on the type and extent of disease, your doctor may advise surgery. Blockages in the coronary arteries of the heart might need placement with a metal stent (angioplasty) or creation of a new pathway for the blood vessels (bypass surgery) by placing a clear blood vessel from the leg or the chest region (graft).

  1. Medicines for Heart Disease
  2. Doctors for Heart Disease
Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mittal

Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mittal

Cardiology
15 Years of Experience

Dr. Vinod Somani

Dr. Vinod Somani

Cardiology
27 Years of Experience

Dr. Vinayak Aggarwal

Dr. Vinayak Aggarwal

Cardiology
27 Years of Experience

Dr. Vijay Kumar Chopra

Dr. Vijay Kumar Chopra

Cardiology
47 Years of Experience

References

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; About Heart Disease
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; One in five women in the United States die from heart disease. But there’s a lot you can do to protect your heart.
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Heart Disease Fact Sheet
  4. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; How to Prevent Heart Disease
  5. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Endocarditis, Infective. [Internet]

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