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Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

When we think of heart disease, the common image that comes to mind is a heart attack victim clutching their chest and gasping for air. While this is certainly one way that heart disease can show up, it’s much more common that it shows itself in other, less dramatic ways.

As you may or may not know, February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. As a part of our ongoing commitment to educating our past, present and potential future patients – we would like to discuss the signs and symptoms of heart disease that often go unnoticed or get attributed to other things.

Firstly, it’s important to know that heart disease may have any number of underlying causes. The kinds of symptoms you experience may give some clues as to the underlying cause of your cardiovascular disease. Take a look at the information below for a very simplified and brief overview:

Cause:
Birth Defect. These defects of the heart are things you are born with. When they are more serious, they are usually detected in children – sometimes even before the child is born. Less serious defects can sometimes go undetected for years.

Symptoms:
Pale or blueish skin color
Swelling in the legs, abdomen, ankles, hands, feet or area around the eyes
Shortness of breath (especially during feedings in infants) and poor weight gain
Easily tiring

 

Cause:
Weak muscle. In some cases, the heart muscle can thicken and begin to struggle to pump properly due to stiffness. We refer to this as “cardiomyopathy”. In some, less severe cases, there may be no symptoms at all. In more advanced stages, however, the symptoms worsen as the weakness progresses.

Symptoms:
Shortness of breath after exertion or even while at rest
Swelling and numbness of the limbs
Low energy/fatigue
Dizziness, lightheadedness and/or fainting
Heartbeats that feel irregular, rapid, fluttery or pounding

 

Cause:
Infection. Infections in and around the different areas of the heart are all very different and can present with varying symptoms of varying intensity. Many of the symptoms seem familiar as the symptoms of most infections, which can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis or a patient ignoring the symptoms completely thinking that they have a cold or flu etc.

Symptoms:
Fever
Rash or skin spots
Persistent cough
Swelling in the legs or abdomen
Irregular heartbeat
General weakness
Lack of energy/fatigue

 

Cause:
Disease of the valves. The valves that open and close to direct blood flow through the heart can become diseased or infected as well. Typically, this means that the valve responds by either narrowing, leaking or closing improperly.

Symptoms:
Lack of energy/fatigue
Irregular heartbeat
Fainting
Swollen legs, ankles or feet
Shortness of breath

 

Cause:
Arrhythmia. Abnormal heartbeat is not uncommon and can even be present in a patient for years before they detect it. In some cases, however, arrhythmias can be uncomfortable and dangerous for the patient.

Symptoms:
Fluttering feeling in your chest
Heartbeat that seems to race or suddenly slow down
Chest pain
Dizziness, lightheadedness and/or fainting
Shortness of breath

 

Cause:
Disease or defect of the blood vessels. Believe it or not, your blood vessels can also have an effect on the health of your heart. This is one of the most common causes of heart disease. When the vessels leading to and away from the heart are narrowed, blocked or become stiffened, parts of your body can begin to react poorly to the reduced blood flow and lack of oxygen.

Symptoms:
Chest pain
Shortness of breath
Pain, numbness, weakness and/or reduced temperature in your limbs.
Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.

 

It is important to note that several of these symptoms could be easily overlooked or attributed to other things. Numbness of the limbs, for example, could be brushed off as having “slept wrong”. Another important bit of knowledge that everyone should know is that men and women, for reasons that are not entirely understood, tend to experience the above symptoms differently. Men are more likely to experience chest pains and the sort of “traditional” heart attack mentioned at the beginning of this article. Women, however, tend to suffer with symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea and fatigue. Regardless of your sex, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important that you see your doctor.

 

 

 

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