Heart Disease: Could you be at Risk?
Posted by Mike Huber
at February 14th
Heart disease affects more than one in four people, including both men and women. One reason this statistic is so high is that heart disease is an umbrella term covering a multitude of conditions. It’s important to know the symptoms so that you can recognize them in yourself, or someone close to you.
The heart is responsible for circulation and circulation is how oxygen is delivered to your cells. When you have heart disease, your body is starved for oxygen and many symptoms are reflections of that. As a result, the majority of the following conditions share similar symptoms:
- Cardiovascular Disease – disease of the blood vessels (both arteries and veins) in and around the heart. If veins are clogged, hardened, or narrowed – your body – most importantly your heart and brain – will have trouble getting a healthy supply of oxygenated blood. This condition can cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, or a numb, cold sensation in your legs if the veins there have also narrowed.
- Arrhythmia - literally means “not rhythmic”. With this condition, your heart beats at an irregular rhythm. It can be scary to experience an episode of arrhythmia and many of the symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, such as chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath. You can experience a very fast heart rate – called tachycardia, or a slowed heart rate – called bradycardia.
Sporadic arrhythmia is usually not a symptom of heart disease. Episodes can also occur as a result of stress, poor diet, as a side effect to a medication, or substance abuse. Chronic arrhythmia requires medical attention/treatment. If you experience symptoms of arrhythmia, have it checked out by a doctor. It’s always better to find you can treat it with minor life style changes than to discover it was an indicator of a heart attack or heart disease.
- Heart Defects – Congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed shortly after birth. Symptoms are related to poor circulation, causing blue or grey-tinged skin, swelling around the eyes, legs, or abdomen, and a shortness of breath during feedings which leads to weight loss. If you have a baby showing any of these signs, you should take him or her immediately to an Urgent Care facility for treatment.
If the defect was not major and went undiagnosed, later symptoms would be similar. You would experience shortness of breath when exercising. Your hands, feet, and ankles might retain water and you will notice you tire more easily during normal daily activities.
- Cardiomyopathy – a thickening and hardening of the heart muscle. Usually, you won’t experience symptoms until the disease is somewhat progressed. Symptoms include tiring easily or becoming breathless even when you are at rest. Your heartbeat will become erratic and can be described more like flutters than beats. Your abdominal region will retain water as well as your feet, ankles and hands, and you can be prone to fainting.
- Pericarditis, Myocarditis, and Endocarditis – infection of the exterior tissue, interior tissue, and the inner membrane that separates the four chambers of your heart, respectively. The symptoms include shortness of breath, tiring, or water retention and can be accompanied by a fever, rash, and/or a dry cough.
- Valvular heart disease – when the valves in your heart are compromised by narrowing, leaking, or an inability to close properly. Symptoms include fatigue, swelling of extremities, irregular heart beat, chest pain or fainting.
Pay attention to your body’s signals. Seek treatment, especially if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting. When caught early, many of the above conditions can be treated and you can live a normal healthy life.