Many factors can cause heart conditions that need medical or surgical attention.
Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Some of these are a result of structural disorders, such as birth defects. Some are the result of disorders of the electrical signals of the heart such as abnormal heart rhythms. Others are caused by muscular problems such as when a heart attack causes blood to stop flowing to the muscles of the heart. Finally, other conditions are caused by problems with the blood flow through the heart such as disorders of the valves of the heart or arteries that are blocked by plaque.
More detailed information is available on the following heart conditions:
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder. The condition occurs when blood is not pumped through the heart with a regular beat. If untreated, the condition can result in blood clots that can travel through the body and cause strokes, heart attacks or loss of the use of vital organs. Top
Symptoms: In many instances, patients become aware of this condition when their pulse beats irregularly (palpitations). Other signs include racing heartbeat, light-headedness, shortness of breath or even fainting.
Angina is chest pain or a sensation of pressure that occurs when the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen. It tends to develop in women at a later age than in men.
Symptoms: Angina usually first appears during physical activity or emotional distress, both of which make the heart work harder and need more oxygen. But if the reduced blood flow is severe enough, angina can occur when a person is at rest. When angina occurs it usually lasts only a few moments and goes away with rest. Sometimes it is worse when a person is active after having eaten. Top
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Arotic Valve Stenosis is a narrowing of the opening of the aortic valve. It is due to abnormalities of the valve. About 5% of heart defects are due to aortic valve stenosis. However, there may be many cases that are not diagnosed. It is likely that this is the most common cardiac defect.
Symptoms: Severe blockage may cause chest pain or feeling a loss of consciousness with activity. Symptoms depend on what caused the blockage. Top
Arrhythmia is any variation from the normal rhythm of the heartbeat. The heart rate at rest is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Much lower rates may be normal in young adults, particularly those who are physically fit. Variations in heart rate are normal.
Symptoms: The most important considerations are whether the:
Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
- Heartbeats are fast or slow, regular or irregular or short or long.
- Person feels dizzy, light-headed, faint or loses consciousness.
- Palpitations start and stop suddenly or gradually. Top
Atrial Septal Defect is an opening in the wall that separates the two chambers of the heart. Atrial septal defect is found in six to 10 percent of all people born with heart disease. It occurs more often in girls than boys.
Blood Pressure (High)
Symptoms: With this type of heart defect, a heart murmur (sound a doctor can hear with a stethoscope) will usually be discovered before the child is a year old. Without treatment, it can cause high blood pressure in the lungs and a high risk of an embolism (the sudden blockage of a blood vessel by an air bubble or other particle circulating in the blood). Top
High Blood Pressure is a condition in which the pressure of the blood pumping through the arteries is abnormally high. This increases the risk of stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, heart attack and kidney damage. More than 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, and a third are entirely unaware of it.
Coarctation of the Aorta
Symptoms: Hypertension is often called the "silent killer" because symptoms do not appear for years until a vital organ is threatened. Signs of long-untreated high blood pressure (such as headache, fatigue, nausea) can be the result of damage to the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys. Top
Coarctation of the Aorta is a narrowing of the inside the aorta, the major artery leading from the heart. This defect makes up between seven and eight percent of all heart defects that are present from birth.
Symptoms: Babies with this defect may have:
- Sudden heart failure
- A major rise in the acid level of the blood and tissues as the flow of blood to far parts of the body is impaired. Top
Heart Attack is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly and severely reduced or cut off, causing the muscle to die from lack of oxygen. More than 1.1 million people experience a heart attack each year, and for many of them, the attack is their first symptom of coronary artery disease.
Symptoms: Common symptoms include:
- Sudden sweating
- Nausea Top
Heart Failure occurs when the heart muscle fails to pump as much blood as the body needs. The faulty pumping means the body doesn't get the oxygen it needs, blood backs up in the veins and lungs and other changes occur that make the heart even weaker.
Symptoms: Common symptoms include:
- Wheezing and spasms of the airways similar to asthma
- Tiring easily
- A dry, hacking cough, especially when lying down Top
The body needs two major kinds of fats in the bloodstream to operate well: cholesterol and triglycerides. They provide energy, protect the body from cold and help avoid injury. Fats and protein form lipoproteins, which travel throughout the bloodstream. High levels of fats, especially cholesterol, moving in the blood can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Symptoms: There are no symptoms of high cholesterol unless the condition is severe. In such cases, fat deposits can form in tendons and skin or even cause severe stomach pain due to an enlarged liver or spleen. Top