Authored by Revere Health

What You Need To Know About Heart Disease

January 24, 2017 | CardiologyFamily Medicine

The heart is a vital organ, and conditions of the heart can affect many functions within the body. Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, describes a number of different heart and blood vessel conditions that affect millions of people every year.

Are you at risk of heart disease? Do you know how to detect symptoms and know if your heart is healthy? Do you make lifestyle choices that help prevent heart complications? Here’s what you need to know.


Types, Causes and Symptoms

Heart disease is a broad category of several different diseases. These different forms of heart disease are caused by a number of things, and show varying symptoms.


Atherosclerosis develops when arteries harden and become blocked, and it’s a primary cause of heart disease. Atherosclerosis can be caused by high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” cholesterol and cigarette smoking. Symptoms of atherosclerosis include:

  • Pain, either in the chest, neck, jaw, throat or back
  • Numbness or weakness in legs or arms
  • Trouble breathing


Birth Defects:

There are a few birth defects that can cause heart disease. They can be caused by complications in the womb, problems with medication or genetics. Some of the symptoms that are visible early after birth include:


  • Swelling in the legs, stomach or around the eyes
  • Pale or blue skin
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty feeding in infants


In some instances, heart defects develop later in life or don’t show symptoms until adulthood. Symptoms can include shortness of breath and numbness while exercising, or minor swelling.

Heart Arrhythmias:

Any unusual heartbeat is classified as a heart arrhythmia. There are dozens of potential causes of heart arrhythmias, and the symptoms can vary widely:


  • Slow or racing heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Heart attack



Cardiomyopathy refers to diseases within the heart muscle that occur when the muscles swell and thicken, weakening the heart’s ability to pump blood. The most common form is dilated cardiomyopathy, for which the cause is unknown. It can, however, be inherited from parents. Symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:


  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling in legs or arms
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Irregular heartbeat


Heart Infections:

Heart infections are split into three groups: Pericarditis (tissue surrounding the heart), myocarditis (middle layer of heart walls) and endocarditis (inner heart membranes). These infections can be caused by a combination of bacteria, viruses and parasites. Symptoms of heart infections are unlike other heart conditions include:

  • Fever
  • Chronic cough, especially a dry cough
  • Rashes or marks on the skin in unexpected places
  • Changes in heart palpitations


Valvular Heart Disease:

There are four valves that bring blood to and from the heart, and leaking, narrowing or closing of the valves can damage them. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting (syncope)


Risk Factors

There are several major risk factors for cardiovascular disease:


  • Gender: Men are at greater risk
  • Age: Risk increases with age
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle: Diet, exercise, habits such as cigarettes and alcohol abuse
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Hygiene


Possible Complications

If it progresses too far, the complications from heart disease can be severe:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack or cardiac arrest
  • Heart failure
  • Aneurysm
  • Peripheral artery disease


Treatment and Prevention

A big part of heart disease treatment and prevention involves lifestyle adjustments. Options include:

  • Lifestyle: This includes everything from diet to exercise to stress management. Limiting bad habits like cigarettes and alcohol, and promoting healthy habits, can also help prevent heart disease.
  • Medication: There are several medications that can assist with various forms of heart disease.
  • Surgery: Especially after heart attack or another traumatic heart event, your doctor may need to perform surgery.


As a physician, I love helping people through stressful times when they may be sick or hurt. I want to be the kind of doctor that I would want for my own family. When a doctor takes the time to help their patients understand what is happening and what the plan is, a patient’s anxiety can be greatly reduced. The patient should receive all the information they need to be an equal partner in decision-making and feel empowered about caring for their body. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.




“Heart disease.” The Mayo Clinic.

“What is Cardiovascular Disease?” American Heart Association.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.