Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Several diseases and conditions fall under the umbrella of heart disease. Types of heart disease include:
- Arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a heart rhythm abnormality.
- Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries.
- Cardiomyopathy. This condition causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak.
- Congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are heart irregularities that are present at birth.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries. It’s sometimes called ischemic heart disease.
- Heart infections. Heart infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
The term cardiovascular disease may be used to refer to heart conditions that specifically affect the blood vessels.
Different types of heart disease may result in a variety of different symptoms.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms. The symptoms you experience may depend on the type of arrhythmia you have — heartbeats that are too fast or too slow. Symptoms of an arrhythmia include:
- fluttering heart or racing heartbeat
- slow pulse
- fainting spells
- chest pain
Atherosclerosis reduces blood supply to your extremities. In addition to chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms of atherosclerosis include:
- coldness, especially in the limbs
- numbness, especially in the limbs
- unusual or unexplained pain
- weakness in your legs and arms
Congenital heart defects
Congenital heart defects are heart problems that develop when a fetus is growing. Some heart defects are never diagnosed. Others may be found when they cause symptoms, such as:
- blue-tinged skin
- swelling of the extremities
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- fatigue and low energy
- irregular heart rhythm
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
CAD is plaque buildup in the arteries that move oxygen-rich blood through the heart and lungs. Symptoms of CAD include:
- chest pain or discomfort
- a feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest
- shortness of breath
- feelings of indigestion or gas
Cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the muscles of the heart to grow larger and turn rigid, thick, or weak. Symptoms of this condition include:
- swollen legs, especially ankles and feet
- shortness of breath
- pounding or rapid pulse
The term heart infection may be used to describe conditions such as endocarditis or myocarditis. Symptoms of a heart infection include:
- chest pain
- chest congestion or coughing
- skin rash
Women often experience different signs and symptoms of heart disease than men, specifically with regards to CAD and other cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, a 2003 study looked at the symptoms most often seen in women who’d experienced a heart attack. The top symptoms didn’t include “classic” heart attack symptoms such as chest pain and tingling. Instead, the study reported that women were more likely to say they experienced anxiety, sleep disturbances, and unusual or unexplained fatigue.
What’s more, 80 percent of the women in the study reported experiencing these symptoms for at least one month before their heart attack occurred.
Symptoms of heart disease in women can also be confused with other conditions, such as depression, menopause, and anxiety.
Common heart disease symptoms in women include:
- shortness of breath or shallow breathing
- fainting or passing out
- jaw pain
- neck pain
- back pain
- indigestion or gaslike pain in the chest and stomach
- cold sweats
Heart disease is a collection of diseases and conditions that cause cardiovascular problems. Each type of heart disease is caused by something entirely unique to that condition. Atherosclerosis and CAD result from plaque buildup in the arteries. Other causes of heart disease are described below.
Causes of an abnormal heart rhythm include:
- heart defects, including congenital heart defects
- medications, supplements, and herbal remedies
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- excessive alcohol or caffeine use
- substance use disorders
- stress and anxiety
- existing heart damage or disease
Congenital heart defect causes
This heart disease occurs while a baby is still developing in the womb. Some heart defects may be serious and diagnosed and treated early. Some may also go undiagnosed for many years.
Your heart’s structure can also change as you age. This can create a heart defect that may lead to complications and problems.
Several types of cardiomyopathy exist. Each type is the result of a separate condition.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy. It’s unclear what causes this most common trusted Source type of cardiomyopathy, which leads to a weakened heart. It may be the result of previous damage to the heart, such as the kind caused by drugs, infections, and heart attacks. It may also be an inherited condition or the result of uncontrolled blood pressure.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This type of heart disease leads to a thicker heart muscle. It’s usually inherited.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy. It’s often unclear what leads to this type of cardiomyopathy, which results in rigid heart walls. Possible causes may include scar tissue buildup and a type of abnormal protein buildup known as amyloidosis.
Heart infection causes
Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are the most common causes of heart infections. Uncontrolled infections in the body can also harm the heart if they’re not properly treated.
There are many risk factors for heart disease. Some are controllable, and others aren’t. The CDC says that around 47 percent of trusted Source of America has at least one risk factor for heart disease. Some of these risk factors include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol
- physical inactivity
Smoking, for example, is a controllable risk factor. People who smoke double their risk of developing heart disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)Trusted Source.
People with diabetes may also be at higher risk for heart disease because high blood glucose levels increase the risk of:
- heart attack
If you have diabetes, it’s essential to control your glucose to limit your risk for developing heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA)Trusted Source reports that people who have both high blood pressure and diabetes double their risk for cardiovascular disease.
Risk factors you can’t control
Other risk factors for heart disease include:
- family history
Although these risk factors aren’t controllable, you may be able to monitor their effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, a family history of CAD is especially concerning if it involved a:
- male relative under 55 years old, such as a father or brother
- female relative under 65 years old, such as a mother or sister
Non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, and people of Asian or Pacific Island heritage have a higher risk than Native Alaskans or Native Americans. Also, men are at greater risk for heart disease than women. In fact, the CDC estimates between 70 and 89 percent of all cardiac events in the United States occur in men.
Finally, your age can increase your risk for heart disease. From ages 20 to 59, men and women are at a similar risk for CAD. After age 60, however, the percentage of men affected rises to between 19.9 and 32.2 percent. Only 9.7 to 18.8 percent of women that age is affected.