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Heart Disease

Symptoms and treatment of heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In response to the seriousness of the problem, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has advocated that people take a good, hard look at their lifestyles and start making immediate changes. There is a lot of information on heart disease readily available to the public through the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Together with health professionals, they're working to decrease the incidence of heart disease in North America.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a term used to refer to several diseases of the heart and circulatory system, including coronary artery disease, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, angina and heart failure. Congenital heart disease affects newborns and is normally the cause of structural defects in the heart. Ischemic heart disease is characterized by chest pain, angina and heart failure. The risk increases for ischemic heart disease as a person gets older.

Symptoms of heart disease

  • Chest or arm pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Fatigue or unnatural tiredness

Symptoms of heart disease can vary from person to person and differ from man to woman. Watch for symptoms of a heart attack, which include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest
  • Pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint or woozy

Symptoms for women are normally less specific, and include fatigue, trouble sleeping, feelings of anxiety, problems breathing and indigestion. Any symptom of heart disease is a reason to call your doctor. Don't put it off if you suspect you're having a heart attack. If you're having a heart attack, chew one aspirin and call 911. Do not attempt to move or drive yourself to the hospital.

Treatment

Your doctor will order an EKG or an MRI to determine the state of your heart. He or she will then tell you what your treatment plan will be. Sometimes, a strict adherence to a healthy diet plan and physical fitness program will reduce your cholesterol and help keep your heart healthy. Some people will need to take cholesterol-reducing drugs or aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner – it helps blood pass better through narrowed arteries. You may also be given nitroglycerin if you are having a heart attack.

Bypass surgery is used to unblock arteries that may be obstructing blood flow to the heart muscle. This surgery will be performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon. There are several types of bypass surgery, including standard coronary bypass grafting, which is open-heart surgery that allows the surgeon to create detours around the blockage. Off-pump bypass surgery means that the heart is still beating while the surgery is being performed. A minimally invasive coronary bypass isn't as hard on the body; a keyhole incision is made and the mammary artery is used.

Heart disease can be a frightening illness, but it is preventable by living a healthy lifestyle and eating a low-fat diet. There are many resources for heart disease online and through your hospital. You can always call your doctor if you have more questions.

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