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Symptoms of Heart Conditions

Symptoms of Heart Conditions
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BY STEVE NUBIE

Symptoms of Heart conditions from congestive heart failure to heart attack.

Heart disease symptoms are often subtle and grow over the long-term. Here are some warning signs you shouldn’t ignore for a variety of heart conditions.

Our common assumption about symptoms related to heart disease tend to be the dramatic images we see on TV where someone clutches their chest or left arm and collapses to the ground. That is most certainly a symptom and usually indicates a heart attack, but symptoms of heart disease aren’t always that clear or specific including the symptoms of a heart attack. More often than not, they occur slowly and build as a recurring set of symptoms that can sometimes be mild and too easily ignored.

It’s not just about the heart

It’s important to remember that heart disease can affect many parts of the cardio-vascular system. The build up of plaque in our arteries due to high cholesterol levels is a specific form of coronary heart disease, but can go unnoticed for years unless you’re aware of some of the subtle warning signs. The same is true for a heart valve that is slowly becoming compromised or failing. Many people with congestive heart failure shrug off the symptoms as fatigue or a bad cough and cold that won’t quit. Then again, it may just be fatigue or a bad cold.

Many symptoms are very common

As we go through these various forms of heart disease what becomes apparent is a common pattern of symptoms that happen across conditions. Some of these common and consistent symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of ankles and feet (edema) and heart palpitations. Regardless of the cause or condition that creates these symptoms, all of them should be taken seriously and you should see your doctor immediately.

It’s also important to remember that many heart conditions show no signs or symptoms until they have advanced to a serious or acute stage. Regular checkups with your doctor is the best way to anticipate and diagnose heart disease in the early stages when treatment and prognosis are more likely to have a positive outcome. It’s important to note that heart disease can affect anyone including someone who is in excellent physical condition. Congenital conditions or birth defects can affect anyone as well as certain viruses and bacterial infections like scarlet fever that can have an affect on overall heart health.

Here’s how to recognize some of these warning signs so you can schedule an immediate checkup with your doctor––just in case.

Heart attack

The symptoms of heart attack are often not as dramatic as what most people expect. It can often be subtle and build to a significant collapse, but too often the early warning signs are ignored. They include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort that lasts for a minutes and then subsides.
  • General body discomfort affecting the shoulders, back, arms, neck, jaw or the stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This symptom is common with many forms of heart disease and can occur after mild activity or while resting.

Coronary artery disease

Unlike a heart attack which is often the end result of coronary artery disease, this conditions often shows little signs or symptoms. Angina is one symptom usually brought on by stress. Angina is a tightness in the chest or the feeling that a great weight is on the chest. Shortness of breath is another symptom of coronary artery disease although it is symptomatic of other heart conditions as well.

Heart valve conditions

A defective heart valve causes the heart to work harder and possibly enlarge over time. Because a defective valve affects blood flow many symptoms can emerge in isolation or collectively:

  • Shortness of breath once again emerges as a symptom including heart valve failure.
  • Palpitations which could be a rapid heart rhythm, skipped bears or a flip-flop feeling in the chest.
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen. This is commonly referred to as edema and is another symptom of varying heart conditions including heart valve failure.
  • Weakness or dizziness which is the result of reduce blood flow due to the valve failing.
  • A sudden weight gain of 2 or 3 pounds is a sign of edema that is not as visible but indicates a fluid buildup potentially in the chest cavity.
  • Discomfort in your chest. Another common symptom but many people with heart valve problems feel this discomfort regularly.

Congestive heart failure

This does not mean the heart has stopped, it means the ability of the heart to effectively pump blood is compromised. Symptoms include:

  • A chronic cough. A chronic cough often accompanied by wheezing is often one of the first symptoms of congestive heart failure.
  • Edema once again emerges as a symptom with the indicators being dramatic weight gain and swelling of the feet and ankles.
  • Lack of energy. Many people with congestive heart failure complained that they had to sit down often even when doing the simplest tasks.
  • Shortness of breath. A classic symptom again emerges and with congestive heart failure it is often most pronounced.
  • A rapid or irregular heart beat as your heart works harder to compensate for either damage or weakness.

Enlarged heart

An enlarged heart is usually a manifestation of other heart disease conditions including heart valve failure, congestive heart failure and other conditions that cause the heart to work harder. Because the heart is a muscle it increases in size as it works harder. Once again the symptoms are familiar:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms sometimes referred to as arrhythmia
  • Edema (swelling of feet, ankles and abdomen)
  • Shortness of breath

Arrhythmia

Our heart beats to a consistent rhythm determined by electrical impulses. A variety of conditions can affect this rhythm resulting in a symptom generally known as Arrhythmia. Specific symptoms that can occur in isolation or collectively include:

  • Palpitations or a fluttering feeling in the chest.
  • A slow heartbeat
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Pauses or the feeling that the heart has skipped a beat
  • Fainting or nearly fainting
  • Weakness, dizziness or light-headedness
  • Sweating
  • And the ever present shortness of breath

Heart muscle disease

This is commonly referred to as cardiomyopathy. There are different forms with different causes but the symptoms are both specific and similar to other symptoms of other forms of heart disease:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness of fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention
  • Arrhythmia

Pericarditis

Pericarditis is an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart. Symptoms include:

  • A sharp, stabbing pain in the middle to the left side of the chest or in one or both shoulders. It has the symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Fever is another symptom of acute pericarditis.
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Coughing and trouble breathing

What becomes obvious from this list are certain recurring symptoms that should never be ignored. Chest pain and shortness of breath appear to be the most common and consistent symptoms although any symptom should be taken seriously, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or are in poor health.

 

 

 

 

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