Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is a term that describes a range of conditions that affect the heart. Diseases that affect the heart’s muscle (cardiomyopathy), rhythm (arrhythmia), structure (congenital heart defect), or blood vessels (coronary artery disease) are all forms of heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease depend on the specific condition. A weak heart muscle may cause fatigue, dizziness, and swelling of the legs, ankles and feet. Symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm may include chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or a racing or slow heartbeat. Individuals who were born with an abnormality in the structure of the heart may experience swelling in the legs or abdomen, pale or blue skin color, or shortness of breath. Chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain in the legs, arms, neck, jaw, or throat may be a result of heart disease in the blood vessels.
There are many causes of heart disease, depending on the specific form. There are also a few factors that can increase the risk for heart problems. These factors include older age, poor diet, high blood pressure, smoking, a family history of heart disease, stress, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and poor hygiene. Doctors use a combination of tests and exams to diagnose heart disease. These tests may include a medical history, a family history, a physical exam, blood tests, an assessment of heart rhythm using electrical signals (electrocardiogram or ECG), and an ultrasound image of your heart (echocardiogram). Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, eating a healthy diet, or quitting smoking may decrease the risk for heart disease. Some forms of heart disease require treatment with medication, surgery or other medical procedures. Emergency medical attention is recommended for symptoms of chest pain, fatigue or fainting in association with heart disease. Talk with your doctor to decide which treatment option is best for you.