Understanding Your Heart Condition
When it comes to heart care, there are so many different physician specialties, conditions and terminologies that it can seem overwhelming. You may have multiple heart symptoms and conditions. Understanding your diagnosis and the role of your physician is an important part of your treatment plan.
This reference guide can help you better understand basic heart conditions and the specialists who treat them.
A heart attack is sometimes referred to as a myocardial infarction (MI). This occurs when one of the arteries bringing blood to your heart is blocked. This blockage can be caused by a blood clot or plaque. When part of the heart does not receive blood due to this blockage, symptoms such as chest pain (angina) can occur, signaling a heart attack.
Signs of a heart attack
There are a wide variety of symptoms of a heart attack that may include one or more of the following:
- Discomfort, pressure, heaviness or pain in the chest
- Pain or tingling in the arm
- Pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw or back
- A feeling similar to heartburn that can include fullness or a choking sensation
- Sweating accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Extreme weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
These symptoms can often be mild. Sometimes women have no symptoms at all.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Abnormal heart rhythm:
Also known as arrhythmia an abnormal heart rhythm can mean that the heart is beating too fast, too slow or unevenly. There are many causes and types of arrhythmia based on which ventricle (or chamber) of the heart is not working correctly.
Sudden cardiac arrest
Sometimes referred to as sudden death, sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical impulses that keep the heart pumping fail. It is not the same thing as a heart attack. There can be multiple causes of cardiac arrest and it can occur in people of all ages, many with no previous history of heart disease. During arrest, the heart completely stops beating.
Heart failure—or congestive heart failure—is not cardiac arrest. Heart failure is a chronic, long-term condition where the heart becomes enlarged, making it difficult to pump an adequate supply of blood throughout the body.
Heart valve disease
This is a defect in one or more of the heart valves, which open and close to allow blood to flow between the chambers of the heart. Defective valves do not open and close properly and cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. Heart valve disease can be congenital or it can be the result of an infection. The four heart valves are aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary.
Adult congenital heart disease
Congenital heart disease is a type of birth defect in the heart’s structure that is surgically repaired in infancy or childhood and re-emerges in adulthood. Patients who have undergone surgery as a child may require continuing care as adults with a cardiologist specializing in congenital heart disease. If you have symptoms such as shortness of breath and decreased stamina, consult your physician.
Peripheral vascular disease
Also referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD), this condition is the buildup of plaque inside the arteries outside of the heart and throughout the body. This buildup reduces the amount of blood that can flow through the body from head to toe.