Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, 1 in every 4 deaths in is the result of a heart disease. That’s about 610,000 people who die from the condition each year.
Heart disease doesn’t discriminate. It’s the leading cause of death for several populations, including Caucasians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. Almost half of Americans are at risk for heart disease, and the numbers are rising. Learn more about the increase in heart disease rates.
While heart disease can be deadly, it’s also preventable in most people. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits early, you can potentially live longer with a healthier heart.
Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Several diseases and conditions fall under the umbrella of heart disease. Types of heart disease include:
- Arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a heart rhythm abnormality.
- Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries.
- Cardiomyopathy. This condition causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak.
- Congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are heart irregularities that are present at birth.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries. It’s sometimes called ischemic heart disease.
- Heart infections. Heart infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
The term cardiovascular disease may be used to refer to heart conditions that specifically affect the blood vessels.
Different types of heart disease may result in a variety of different symptoms.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms. The symptoms you experience may depend on the type of arrhythmia you have — heartbeats that are too fast or too slow. Symptoms of an arrhythmia include:
- fluttering heart or racing heartbeat
- slow pulse
- fainting spells
- chest pain
Atherosclerosis reduces blood supply to your extremities. In addition to chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms of atherosclerosis include:
- coldness, especially in the limbs
- numbness, especially in the limbs
- unusual or unexplained pain
- weakness in your legs and arms
Congenital heart defects
Congenital heart defects are heart problems that develop when a fetus is growing. Some heart defects are never diagnosed. Others may be found when they cause symptoms, such as:
- blue-tinged skin
- swelling of the extremities
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- fatigue and low energy
- irregular heart rhythm
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
CAD is plaque buildup in the arteries that move oxygen-rich blood through the heart and lungs. Symptoms of CAD include:
- chest pain or discomfort
- a feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest
- shortness of breath
- feelings of indigestion or gas
Cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the muscles of the heart to grow larger and turn rigid, thick, or weak. Symptoms of this condition include:
- swollen legs, especially ankles and feet
- shortness of breath
- pounding or rapid pulse
The term heart infection may be used to describe conditions such as endocarditis or myocarditis. Symptoms of a heart infection include:
- chest pain
- chest congestion or coughing
- skin rash
Read more about the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Women often experience different signs and symptoms of heart disease than men, specifically with regards to CAD and other cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, a 2003 study looked at the symptoms most often seen in women who’d experienced a heart attack. The top symptoms didn’t include “classic” heart attack symptoms such as chest pain and tingling. Instead, the study reported that women were more likely to say they experienced anxiety, sleep disturbances, and unusual or unexplained fatigue.
What’s more, 80 percent of the women in the study reported experiencing these symptoms for at least one month before their heart attack occurred.
Symptoms of heart disease in women can also be confused with other conditions, such as depression, menopause, and anxiety.
Common heart disease symptoms in women include:
- shortness of breath or shallow breathing
- fainting or passing out
- jaw pain
- neck pain
- back pain
- indigestion or gaslike pain in the chest and stomach
- cold sweats