Heart Disease: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

The term heart disease is very broad and includes a number of conditions, ranging from congenital (inborn) abnormalities of the heart to coronary artery disease caused by atherosclerosis. Sometimes the term is used synonymously with coronary artery disease, but in the true sense of the term, heart disease can apply to any number of conditions.

Accordingly, the symptoms of heart disease will depend upon the type of disease that is present. When disease such as atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries prevents the heart muscle from receiving enough oxygen, chest pain and shortness of breath may result. Less commonly, the pain of coronary artery disease can manifest as back pain, neck pain, arm pain, or upper abdominal pain. Heart failure can cause different symptoms, including some nonspecific symptoms such as swelling and fatigue. Arrhythmias are another type of heart disease. Symptoms of arrhythmias can include dizziness, racing heart, and palpitations. The list of possible symptoms that can occur with heart conditions is very broad and reflects disturbances in heart function and circulation as well as loss of oxygen delivery to critical organs.

Causes of heart disease

Heart disease encompasses a number of different conditions, including congenital heart defects (birth defects), coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, abnormal heartbeats known as arrhythmias, or diseases of the heart muscle. A number of environmental and genetic factors are related to the development of heart disease, and the exact cause depends upon the exact type of heart disease.

Other heart disease symptoms and signs

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.