Heart Disease (Cardiovascular Disease, CVD)

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Quick GuideHeart Disease: Symptoms, Signs, and Causes

Heart Disease: Symptoms, Signs, and Causes

What are the symptoms of cardiovascular?

The classic symptoms of angina, or pain from the heart, are described as a crushing pain or heaviness in the center of the chest with radiation of the pain to the arm (usually the left) or jaw. There can be associated shortness of breath or sweating. The symptoms tend to be brought on by activity and get better with rest. Some patients may complain of indigestion and nausea while others may have upper abdominal, shoulder, or back pain.

Unfortunately, not all pain from coronary artery disease presents in this manner. The more we learn about heart disease, the more we realize that symptoms can be markedly different in different groups of people. Women, people who have diabetes, and the elderly may have different pain perceptions and may complain of overwhelming fatigue and weakness or a change in their ability to perform routine daily activities like walking, climbing steps, or doing household chores. Some patients may have no discomfort at all.

Most often, the symptoms of cardiovascular disease become worse over time, as the narrowing of the affected coronary artery progresses over time and blood flow to that part of the heart decreases. It may take less activity to provoke symptoms and it may take longer for those symptoms to resolve with rest. This change in exercise tolerance is helpful in making the diagnosis. Unstable angina is the term used to describe symptoms that occur at rest, waken the patient from sleep, and do not respond to nitroglycerin or resolve with rest.

Too often, however, the first presentation of heart disease may be a myocardial infarction, where a plaque ruptures causing one of the coronary arteries to occlude and prevent blood flow to the heart. This can lead to crushing chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, and perhaps sudden cardiac death.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/11/2016

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