Common Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease
These symptoms are frequently associated with heart conditions. If you frequently experience one or more of these symptoms with unexplained cause, it is advisable for you to make an appointment with Dr. Bavishi.
Chest Pain (Angina)
Chest pain (also known as angina) is a very uncomfortable and undesirable occurrence and it is sometimes overlooked by individuals when it should not be. It is frequently linked to heart conditions – many of which are very serious – however, there are times when chest pain can be due to conditions outside of the heart. Also, many times the pain can radiate to different areas of the body including your arms, neck, jaw and abdomen. Regardless, this is a symptom that a physician or medical professional needs to evaluate immediately. If you are experiencing intermittent chest pain, please do not hesitate to make an appointment at our office so that we can evaluate you and your heart. However, if your chest pain is continuous or does not resolve, you should go to an emergency room for an evaluation.
Palpitations essentially make your heartbeats known and readily apparent to you. They can result from normal or abnormal heart rhythms and do not necessarily conform to any pattern. More commonly they are triggered by caffeine intake, diet pills, medication for cold, and generally any substance that stimulates the heart. However, they can also be caused by stress or a serious heart condition that may require evaluation. Frequent palpitations can point to signs of more serious heart conditions especially when found in combination with one or more of the other symptoms listed on this page.
Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)
Shortness of breath (also known as dyspnea) is as it sounds –difficulty in breathing properly or the feeling of breathlessness. This condition is normal after significant exertion or exercise but points to an underlying problem when it occurs unexpectedly. Normally, shortness of breath is due to respiratory or cardiac problems. For example, shortness of breath is a classic sign of congestive heart failure and so this symptom is not to be taken lightly. However, like the other symptoms, some other condition may be present that are unrelated to these systems that is causing the breathlessness.
Dizziness and lightheadedness are symptoms that can consist of muscle weakness, loss of balance, and feeling faint. These feelings can be present and resolve with time or lead to episodes like fainting. Inadequate blood flow from the heart due to cardiomyopathies or arrhythmias can cause dizziness in addition to hypotension (low blood pressure) among other causes.
Fainting (also known as syncope) is a loss of consciousness, commonly known as “blacking out” or “passing out”. Many times spells of dizziness or lightheadedness precede fainting episodes so these symptoms are commonly related. Fainting usually occurs when there is insufficient blood flow to the brain. As this is frequently associated with heart conditions such as cardiomyopathies, it is recommendable to have a cardiac examination performed to determine whether the origin of this problem is cardiac. Fainting can also occur in some other conditions including hypotension, overexertion, dehydration, and stress.
Edema is basically the buildup of fluid underneath the skin. It frequently occurs in lower extremities such as the legs, ankles, and feet. Heart problems including cardiomyopathies and heart failure are associated with edema, but other causes including medications, side effects and kidney disease exist. This is not a symptom to be taken lightly either and you should be properly evaluated by a cardiologist if you suspect your heart may be involved with fluid accumulation around your body.
List of Diseases Dr. Nilesh Bavishi Commonly Treats:
Arteriosclerosis is commonly thought of as a stiffening of the arteries of the body. Generally, this is due to the loss of elasticity from the arteries thereby making them more rigid. Do not confuse
arteriosclerosis with atherosclerosis. Arteriolosclerosis is the hardening of the small arteries and arterioles of the body and is usually associated with high blood pressure (hypertension) while atherosclerosis is the hardening of arteries due to the buildup of materials, usually cholesterol, in the arterial wall. These buildups are also known as plaques and their rupture can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
The aorta is the main artery leaving the heart as it supplies blood to the rest of the body. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve – through which blood enters the aorta from the heart – does not open fully or is narrowed. This narrowing, in turn, limits the amount of blood flow into the aorta and thus to the body forcing the heart to work harder to pump sufficient amounts of blood. As this narrowing becomes more severe, one may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, or syncope.
Arrhythmias are rhythm or rate problems that occur in the heart due to abnormal electrical activity. Many types of arrhythmias are long lasting. Such types include the heart beating too slow (bradycardia), too fast (tachycardia), or irregularly (i.e. atrial fibrillation*). Some arrhythmias result when certain cells of the heart begin to send electrical impulses when they should not and so irregular rhythms result. The presence of arrhythmias can have very serious consequences. This is primarily because arrhythmias result in inefficient pumping of blood from the heart. Arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation*, may lead to the formation of a blood clot, which can dislodge and cause stroke. Some forms of arrhythmias are also associated with sudden cardiac arrest, a condition where heart function is suddenly lost in an individual. Causes of arrhythmia vary from person to person and include blood electrolyte imbalances, coronary artery disease, changes in heart muscle, high blood pressure, and more.
*(See Atrial Fibrillation for more information)
Atrial fibrillation is a common form of arrhythmia*. It occurs when the heart muscles of the atria quiver instead of effectively contract. This quivering usually means that the proper amount of blood is not always squeezed into the ventricles. This inefficient pumping can lead to stasis of blood which can lead to the formation of a blood clot. Once this clot dislodges, it may result in a stroke. Atrial fibrillation is actually a major cause or a factor in many strokes. Many times atrial fibrillation is chronic but in some individuals it can come and go, and this type is termed paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include decreased blood pressure, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, palpitations, and chest pain.
*(See Arrhythmia for more information)
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle where reduced function results. With this condition, the heart either becomes enlarged (dilated cardiomyopathy), becomes rigid (restrictive cardiomyopathy), or its muscle thickens (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). As the disease progresses, the heart becomes progressively weaker which can eventually lead to heart failure and/or arrhythmias. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy where heart chambers dilate and lose pumping efficiency. Once it progresses, common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, and swelling starting at ankles and progressing upward. Common conditions associated with it include coronary artery disease, heart attack, hypertension, diabetes, alcohol, viral infections, and thyroid disorders. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition where some or all of the muscles of the ventricle thicken. It is a common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people due to the restriction of blood flow out of the ventricle. It is usually an inherited disorder but other causes include hypertension, aging, diabetes, etc. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is less common and occurs when the ventricles become stiff and rigid reducing the heart’s ability to relax and thereby impairs adequate filling of the blood from the atria. With time, heart efficiency is reduced. Contributors to this type of cardiomyopathy include hemochromatosis, sarcoidosis, amyloidosis, and some cancer treatments.
Carotid Artery Disease
The carotid arteries are the two large blood vessels within the neck that supply the brain. In carotid artery disease, there is narrowing of the arteries due to cholesterol and plaque buildup along the artery wall, limiting the amount of blood being supplied to the brain. It is the dislodgement of this plaque which may cause stroke. Usually, there are no typical symptoms for carotid artery disease from which it can be diagnosed until it is well into its severe stage. Some people experience symptoms related to a stroke or a mini-stroke (also known as transient ischemic attack) such as weakness in one part of the body, blurry vision, memory loss, or slurred speech.
Congenital Heart Defect
A congenital heart defect is an error in the heart’s structure, present at birth, which can cause blood flow through the heart to slow down, be blocked, or go in the wrong area. Though most cases of congenital heart defects cure themselves and are not noticed till late childhood, some defects can be much more severe and evident during the very early stages of life. Symptoms typically experienced, if at all, by less serious congenital heart defects are shortness of breath, easily tiring during little activity, and swelling in the ankles, feet or hands. For more serious cases, symptoms may include blue colored skin, little weight gain, or loss of skin color.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
Congestive heart failure is a condition when the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to the body. However, heart failure itself describes a condition rather than a disease itself as it is often the result of other conditions which weaken and debilitate the heart. With the advent of surgical procedures, many of these individuals lead near normal lives needing routine cardiac monitoring. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, problems with the heart valves, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, and even arrhythmias can all lead to heart failure. Shortness of breath, swelling, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, a reduced ability to exercise, and chest pain are many of the symptoms associated with heart failure.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying the heart with blood/ oxygen. In coronary artery disease, these arteries narrow usually due to the sticking of fatty deposits, such as cholesterol/plaque, along the arterial wall thus limiting the amount of blood and oxygen being supplied to the heart. Even though some people may experience no symptoms, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort arising from the heart getting insufficient blood or oxygen especially during exercise or with exertion. This is not only the most common type of heart disease but also the leading cause of death in the United States. So, remember if you experience chest pain or tightness or have any concerns it is best to have it checked out soon.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition where a blood clot forms within a deep vein of the body, most commonly in the legs. Though the blood clots can be caused by a variety of diseases, it is most commonly associated with prolonged stasis (airplane travel, long car ride, etc.) and surgery. Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include swelling and pain over the affected area. Once the blood clot breaks loose it can travel up and cause a blockage in the pulmonary artery – an occurrence known as a pulmonary embolism*.
* (See Pulmonary Embolism for more information)
Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart most commonly by bacteria. Symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, shortness of breath, weight loss, persistent cough, muscle and joint pains. If left untreated it can worsen and cause other severe complications.
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
A heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction) occurs when vessels of the heart are blocked so that the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle is limited. If the supply of blood/oxygen is not restored promptly then heart muscle begins to die. Heart attack is a leading killer in United States. A main cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease, a disease where plaque ruptures and causes a blood clot within a coronary artery. There are many risk factors for coronary artery disease some of which include high cholesterol, family history of heart disease, diabetes mellitus, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. The most common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, vomiting, and lightheadedness which may lead to fainting. If you think you may be suffering a heart attack, you need to seek immediate help.
Heart disease in the number one killer in the United States. It is an umbrella term used to describe diseases affecting the heart or blood vessels. Diseases such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, heart infections (endocarditis, pericarditis and myocarditis) and valvular heart disease all fall under the term heart disease. However, if symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness palpitations persist in an individual, it may indicate an underlying heart problem in need of medical attention. If you would like more information, many of these diseases are discussed in more detail on this page.
Hypercholesterolemia/Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol)
Hypercholesterolemia is the presence of high cholesterol levels in the blood. Cholesterol is a necessary component of the body. However, it is the high levels of bad cholesterol which increases the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. This is because excess cholesterol can cause buildups or deposit against blood vessels. These buildups, known as plaques, not only inhibit blood flow through these vessels but can also rupture and activate platelets to form blood clots which can cause a heart attack or stroke. As such, lowering one’s high cholesterol is imperative in reducing one’s risk of heart disease. Blood tests and lipid management profiles can show whether and individual possesses high levels of bad cholesterol. Besides checking for LDL, one should evaluate LDL particle numbers, LDL size, HDL size, Lp(a), ApoB, and more.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension is a term referring to high blood pressure. Blood pressure is essentially the amount of pressure the blood exerts on the arterial walls of the body. Hypertension is known as the “silent” killer as many times it does not show any outward symptoms. Therefore, many individuals may have hypertension but are not aware of it. Hypertension elevates an individual’s risk of aneurysms, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Treating hypertension reduces an individual’s risk for cardiac disease and is a necessary step in preventing adverse events in the future. Factors that increase risk for hypertension include obesity, excess salt intake, excess alcohol use, and lack of exercise (sedentary lifestyle).
Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the valve between the left atrium and ventricle does not close properly due to a bulging (prolapsing) back into left atrium. It is present in about 10% of population. More commonly, it is familial but rarely it is associated with connective tissue disorder and at other times the cause is unknown. If there is adequate displacement of the valve leaflets, then there is back flow of blood into left atrium – a phenomenon called mitral regurgitation. Though it sounds serious, most people with this condition do not have any symptoms and do not need any treatment. However, some individuals experience symptoms such as chest pains, palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and symptoms of dysautonomia such as anxiety, panic attacks, etc. and therefore may require treatment.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of a layer of the heart known as the myocardium. Myocarditis is most frequently caused by a viral infection but on rare occasions can be due to bacteria, fungi, certain chemicals, and certain types of inflammatory disease. It can mimic a heart attack. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, joint pain, fever, leg swelling, and rarely may cause fainting. Severe myocarditis can lead to heart failure, heart attack, blood clots, arrhythmias, stroke, and sudden cardiac death.
The pericardium is a fibrous sac that surrounds and protects the heart. When this sac becomes inflamed it is known as pericarditis. There are a variety of causes including inflammatory disorders, trauma, kidney failure and certain medications. Acute pericarditis, which usually lasts for a few weeks, is frequently associated with chest pain in many individuals that is much worse in supine position but much better in a sitting or a standing position. Chronic pericarditis (usually lasting longer than six months) can also present with chest pain but is usually associated with a buildup of fluid around the heart that can lead to shortness of breath.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease is a narrowing of the arteries in the limbs, often in the legs and pelvis. It is usually caused by atherosclerosis*, which is a buildup of cholesterol and other deposits in the arterial walls. Peripheral artery disease is often associated with cramping and pain in the hip or leg while walking or climbing stairs and usually resolves with rest. Usually, the pain returns when these actions are repeated.
*(See Arteriosclerosis for more information)
Pulmonary embolism is a condition that occurs when there is a blockage in the pulmonary arteries that supply blood to the lungs. As in deep vein thrombosis*, most instances of pulmonary embolism are caused by blood clots dislodging and traveling to the lungs from other parts of the body. Symptoms, include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, weakness, etc.
*(See Deep Vein Thrombosis for more information)