Each heart problem, such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and heart attack, may share similar symptoms. However, they need a different treatment approach.

Knowing more about them and their warning signs can help you consult your doctor to get prompt treatment and prevent any complications. 

The article talks about different heart diseases, their symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures.

Let’s dive in!

Heart Disease/Failure- What Does It Look Like?

The main types of heart diseases are classified into the mentioned categories:

  • Heart rhythm problems or arrhythmias
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart infections
  • Blood vessel diseases such as coronary artery disease
  • Heart defects
  • Conditions affecting heart muscles

These conditions have some similar features, but they also have symptoms that may be unique for them.

Heart Disease in Your Blood Vessels

Accumulation of plaques in your blood vessels may damage them and gradually affect the heart. The plaque buildup blocks or narrows your blood vessels, hampering blood flow to the heart. All this may result in chest pain, heart attack, or stroke.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness, pain, or weakness in your extremities
  • Chest tightness, chest pain, or chest discomfort
  • Pain in jaw, throat, neck, back, or upper abdomen

In most cases, artery diseases go undiagnosed until you get angina, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.

So, it is essential to monitor these symptoms and discuss the same with your doctor.

Abnormal Heartbeats (Heart Arrhythmias)

Usually, your heart beats in sync and regularly. But in some cases, it can beat too slowly, quickly, or irregularly.

Symptoms suggestive of arrhythmias are:

  • Slow heartbeat
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting

Heart Defects

You may be born with heart defects, and the condition is known as congenital heart defects, which are usually diagnosed soon after birth.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Swelling in abdomen, legs, or around the eyes
  • Breathlessness during feeding, resulting in poor weight gain
  • Skin color that is blue or pale grey

However, less critical heart defects may not be diagnosed until adulthood or later in childhood.

Symptoms in these cases are:

  • Shortness of breath during activity or exercise
  • Swelling of ankles, hands, or feet
  • Fatigue

Heart Muscle Diseases (Cardiomyopathy)

There may be no symptoms in the early stages, and the condition thus goes undiagnosed.

Progression of the condition may cause the mentioned symptoms:

  • Swelling of ankles, legs, and feet
  • Breathlessness during activity or even at rest
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Irregular heartbeats such as pounding, rapid, or fluttering

Heart Infection

Infection of the inner lining of your heart valves and chambers is known as endocarditis.

Symptoms indicative of this condition include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of abdomen or legs
  • Dry or persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigues
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Unusual spots on the skin or rashes

Heart Valve Problems 

Your heart has four valves: the aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary. These valves open and close to direct blood through the heart.

Many problems can affect your heart valves, causing their leaking, narrowing, prolapse, or regurgitation. 

The symptoms may differ according to the valve that is affected, but generally, the following symptoms may be present:

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

Emergency symptoms

Seek medical help immediately if you have the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting

Heart disease can be managed easily and without complications when detected early. So, it is best to consult your doctor if you have any of the mentioned symptoms or have any concerns. This especially holds if you have a family history of heart disease.

Heart Failure

It is a condition where the heart cannot pump blood efficiently, hampering blood and nutrient supply to other body parts.

Any of the mentioned heart diseases may cause your heart to fail.

Heart failure can affect the left ventricle, right ventricle, or both, but it begins on the left side in most cases. It can also be systolic or diastolic.

Left-sided Heart Failure

It is the most common type and affects your left ventricle that pumps oxygenated blood to your body.

This type of heart failure occurs when the ventricle cannot pump blood effectively, causing blood to pool in the lungs. This ultimately results in the accumulation of fluid and shortness of breath. Your body also does not get oxygen-rich blood.

Right-sided Heart Failure

Here, your right ventricle cannot pump blood effectively to the lungs and is usually a result of left-sided heart failure. The buildup of fluid in the lungs due to left-sided heart failure causes your right ventricle to pump harder. This increases the load on your right ventricle and causes it to weaken and fail.

Right-sided failure can also be caused by other conditions such as lung diseases.

Diastolic Heart Failure

Systole and diastole are phases of the cardiac cycle that support blood movement between the heart chambers. Systole involves contraction, and diastole involves relaxation of heart muscles. The blood collects in a chamber during relaxation and is pumped out during contraction.

In diastolic heart failure, the heart muscles are stiff, which means that the heart chambers are not adequately filled with blood.

This condition is known as diastolic dysfunction, causing a lack of blood flow to other body parts. It is more common in women than in men.

Systolic Heart Failure

As you may have guessed, this condition happens when your heart muscles cannot contract. Failure of the heart to contract results in a reduced amount of blood pumped by the heart.

This condition is also known as systolic dysfunction and occurs when the heart is enlarged, or its muscles get weak.

Unlike diastolic heart failure, this type of failure is more common in men than in women.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Sudden weight gain
  • Persistent coughing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Protruding neck veins
  • Excessive fatigue
  • A loss of appetite
  • Irregular pulse
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Ankle and leg swelling

How To Prevent Heart Failure and Other Heart Diseases?

While anyone may get heart disease, specific lifestyle changes can help prevent them or delay their onset.

Some necessary preventive measures are:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Having a heart-healthy diet1
  • Losing weight
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Quitting smoking
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Managing stress

Heart Disease Treatment and Medication

Management of heart diseases depends on the type and severity of the problem. For instance, if you have a heart infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Generally, the treatment approach of heart diseases falls into the mentioned categories:

Lifestyle Changes

Healthy lifestyle choices can not only help to manage heart disease but also prevent them. It may also prevent it from getting worse.

You can try the following:

Medications

When lifestyle measures are not sufficient, your doctor may prescribe medications to control or cure your heart problem. Medicines may also help to prevent or slow down the risk of complications.

An ideal choice of drug depends on your problem and many other factors.

Learn more about medications prescribed for heart diseases here.

Surgery or Invasive procedures

In some cases, surgery is essential to prevent worsening of the problem or to cure it.

For instance, your doctor may have to place a stent to regularize your blood flow if you have blocked arteries.

The type of procedure depends on the extent of heart damage and your condition.

Final Thoughts

Heart diseases are prevalent and a significant contributor to increased mortality. They are of various types, such as blood vessels and infectious disorders. In many cases, they are silent until complications arise.

So, knowing about heart diseases and their warning signs can help you take steps at an early stage, increasing treatment success and prevent complications.

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