Heart disease is a broad term for a number of conditions that can affect the heart, from congenital diseases to those affecting the blood vessels, arteries, valves, and the muscle tissue itself, as well as problems with the rhythm of the heartbeat. Although some people use heart disease in the same way they use the term cardiovascular disease, the latter technically refers to problems with narrowed or blocked blood vessels, which cause heart attacks or stroke.
Symptoms of heart disease vary depending on the cause. Angina – chest pain or discomfort – is one of the most common overall. This may manifest as a feeling of pain, pressure, burning, or squeezing; in some cases it may radiate to the jaw or neck. For some people it occurs with physical activity and fades with rest, but for others it occurs while at rest or even while sleeping.
An irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia, is when your heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or in an abnormal pattern. You may be able to physically feel that, and it may be accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness and lightheadedness, and chest pain or discomfort. Arrhythmia may be a fairly benign condition, especially without other symptoms, but it’s best to have it checked by a doctor.
People with cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle grows thicker and stiffer, may not feel symptoms in the early stages, but signs such as swollen ankles and feet, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and irregular heartbeats may begin to appear as it worsens.
Problems with the valves affect the way blood flows, causing it to move inefficiently or regurgitating. Symptoms vary depending on which of the four heart valves is affected, but chest pain, irregular heartbeats, swollen feet and ankles, fatigue, and shortness of breath may occur.
There’s a fair amount of overlap in heart disease symptoms, but in general, they affect circulation, breathing, and chest sensations. Depending on the combination, changes in heartbeat, pain or discomfort in the chest, swelling in the lower limbs, difficulty breathing –either with activity or at rest – fatigue, fainting, and lightheadedness can all point to heart disease, so consult your doctor.
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