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What's Heart Disease?

Mention heart disease, and most people picture a heart attack. But the term covers several conditions that can hurt your ticker and keep it from doing its job. These include coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure. Learn the warning signs of each and how to react.

Clogged Arteries


A buildup of sticky plaque (fat and cholesterol) can narrow your heart's arteries, making it harder for blood to pass through. Many people don't even know there's a problem until an artery is clogged and they have a heart attack. But there are warning signs of coronary artery disease, like frequent chest pain called angina.


Inside a Heart Attack


Plaque is hard on the outside and mushy on the inside. Sometimes that hard outer shell cracks. When this happens, a blood clot forms. If it completely blocks your artery, it cuts off the blood supply to part of your heart.

 

Blood carries oxygen, and a shortage of that can quickly damage the organ and possibly kill you. The attack is sudden, and it's important to get medical help right away.


What Does a Heart Attack Feel Like?


You might have:
* Pain or pressure in the chest
* Discomfort spreading to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
* Nausea, indigestion, or heartburn
* Weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
* Fast or irregular heartbeats


It's an emergency even when your symptoms are mild.


Symptoms in Women


Women don't always feel chest pain. Compared to men, they're more likely to have heartburn or heart flutters, lose their appetite, cough, or feel tired or weak. Don't ignore these symptoms. The longer you wait to get treatment, the more damage can be done.


Irregular Heart Beat: Arrhythmia


Your heart beats because of electrical impulses, and they can get off rhythm. Arrhythmias can make your heart race, slow down, or quiver. They're often harmless and pass quickly, but some types can affect your blood flow and take a serious toll on your body. Tell your doctor if you notice anything unusual.


Heart Muscle Disease: Cardiomyopathy


Abnormal heart muscle, or cardiomyopathy, makes it hard to pump and carry blood to the rest of your body. Over time, health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes cause this serious condition, which can lead to heart failure.


Heart Failure


This doesn't mean your heart stops working. It means the organ can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. So over time, it gets bigger and pumps faster. This weakens the muscle and lowers the amount of blood flowing out even more, which adds to the problem.


Most cases of heart failure are the result of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.


Congenital Heart Defect


From birth, you can have a leaky valve or a damaged wall separating your heart chambers. Sometimes, the defects aren't found until you're an adult.


They don't all need treatment, but some require medicine or surgery. If you have one, you're more likely to have arrhythmias, heart failure, and infected valves, but there are ways to lower these chances.


http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/ss/slideshow-visual-guide-to-heart-disease



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