Heart Disease (cont.)

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What are the risk factors for heart disease?

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Risk factors for heart disease include:

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

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The typical symptoms of coronary artery disease are chest pain associated with shortness of breath. Classically, the pain of angina is described as a pressure or heaviness behind the breast bone with radiation to the jaw and down the arm accompanied by shortness of breath and sweating. Unfortunately, angina has a variety of signs and symptoms, and there may not even be specific chest pain. Other locations of pain and other symptoms may include shoulder or back ache, upper abdominal pain, nausea, and indigestion.

Women, the elderly, and people with diabetes may have different perceptions of pain or have no discomfort at all. Instead, they may complain of malaise or fatigue and generalized weakness and the inability to complete routine physical tasks such as walking or climbing stairs.

Health care practitioners and patients may have difficulty understanding each other when symptoms of angina are described. Patients may experience pressure or tightness but may deny any complaints of pain. Health care practitioners may misinterpret these symptoms when patient answers "no" to the question whether "pain is present," even though the patient is experiencing other types of discomfort.

People with coronary artery disease usually have gradual progression of their symptoms. As an artery narrows over time, the symptoms of decreased blood flow to part of the heart muscle may increase in frequency and/or severity. Health care practitioners may inquire about changes in exercise tolerance (How far can you walk before getting symptoms? Is it to the mailbox? Up a flight of stairs?), and whether there has been an acute change in the symptoms.

Once again, patients may be asymptomatic until a heart attack occurs. Of course, some patients also may be in denial as to their symptoms and procrastinate in seeking care.

Picture of the Heart and Heart Attack

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/22/2014

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Heart Disease - Diagnosis Question: Have you been diagnosed with a type of heart disease? If so, what was the diagnosis and treatment.
Heart Disease - Risk Factors Question: What are/were your risk factors for developing heart disease?
Heart Disease - Symptoms Question: Describe the symptoms associated with your heart disease.
Heart Disease - Tests Question: Please describe the exams and tests you received that led to a diagnosis of heart disease.
Heart Disease - Prevention Question: If you have or are at risk for heart disease, how do you try to prevent a heart attack?
Heart Disease - Medications Question: What medications and/or supplements do you take to prevent heart disease?
Heart Disease - Angioplasty Question: Please share your experience with angioplasty, stenting, or heart surgery.