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Acquired Heart Disease - Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment

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Acquired heart diseases are a group of conditions that affect the heart and its associated blood vessels after birth. To know more, read the article below

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sapkal Ganeshrao Patilba

Published At March 22, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 13, 2024

What Is Acquired Heart Disease?

In contrast to the congenital heart diseases present during birth, the conditions that develop during the person's lifetime after birth and affect the heart and its associated blood vessels are known as acquired heart diseases. There are many acquired heart diseases, and each one has its own signs, symptoms, and treatment. In a few, lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in improving health. While some people may also need surgery for their heart to function well. The following are the types of acquired heart diseases,

  1. Coronary artery disease.

  2. Rheumatic heart disease.

  3. High blood pressure.

  4. Valvular heart disease.

  5. Kawasaki's disease.

Acquired Heart Diseases

1. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):

Coronary artery disease is a common heart problem that occurs due to the blockage of the coronary arteries, which is the vessel that supplies blood to the heart. So, in CAD, it leads to decreased blood flow to the heart muscle, resulting in a lack of oxygen supply.

Causes - This disease mainly occurs as a result of atherosclerosis, which is also called the hardening of the arteries. The other causes are:

  • Constriction of the coronary arteries.

  • Vasculitis involving the coronary artery.

  • Blockage of the coronary artery.

Symptoms - The patients with coronary artery disease do not show any symptoms, and at the later stages, there may be:

  • Chest pain that occurs during exertion (stable angina).

  • Chest pain that occurs during rest (unstable angina).

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Heart attack - Heart muscle cells die due to lack of oxygen.

Risk Factors - The factors that increase the risk of CAD are:

  • It mostly occurs in men rather than women.

  • Smoking.

  • Hypertension.

  • Lipid disorders (high low-density cholesterol and low high-density cholesterol).

  • Sedentary lifestyle.

  • Obesity.

Treatment - The goal is to slow down the development of significant blockages for which prescribed medicines such as Aspirin or Plavix, cholesterol-lowering agents, and blood pressure-lowering medications are given. Surgical procedures such as bypass surgery and cardiac catheterization (placement of stents) will help improve CAD.

Also, smoking cessation, intake of low fat and high fiber diet, and practicing moderate exercises (walking, gardening, cycling, playing tennis, running, dancing) 30 minutes a day for 4 to 6 days a week helps to prevent CAD.

2. Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD):

This disease develops when the heart muscle is damaged by rheumatic fever, linked to strep throat and scarlet fever. Rheumatic heart disease was more common earlier, but now doctors are able to prevent this disease with the use of antibiotics. Early recognition and treatment of strep throat led to a significant decrease in the incidence of rheumatic heart disease.

Causes - The causes of rheumatic heart disease are:

  • Rheumatic fever.

  • Infective endocarditis (damage to the valve).

  • Dilatation of ventricle or mitral valve ring.

  • Papillary muscle rupture (myocardial infarction).

Symptoms - Approximately two to three weeks after the initial strep infection, patients present with clinical features of rheumatic fever, and they are:

  • Fever.

  • Lethargy.

  • Weakness.

  • Pain and swelling in large joints.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Muscle aches.

  • Chest pain.

  • Circular rash.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Cough.

  • Lumps under the skin.

  • Abnormal, sudden movements of the arms and legs.

  • Damage to heart valves.

Treatment - When the above symptoms are taken care of, it may not lead to rheumatic heart disease. The symptoms of RHD usually show up many years after the infection, and the treatment of RHD involves a 10-day course of Erythromycin or oral Penicillin V to eradicate streptococcal infection. Surgical treatment is needed when there is a severe valvular disease, or a valve replacement is done.

3. High Blood Pressure:

Hypertension or elevated arterial pressure is a silent killer. When left untreated or in cases of long-standing hypertension, it can damage the arteries and veins and leads to long-term consequences such as:

  • Heart failure.

  • Stroke.

  • Blindness.

  • Heart attacks.

  • Kidney Failure.

Symptoms - The majority of patients do not show symptoms and could be identified only on blood tests. However, the symptoms of high blood pressure are:

  • Dizziness.

  • Headache.

  • Fatigue.

  • Palpitation.

  • Blurred vision.

  • Breathlessness.

  • Chest pain.

Complications - The persistent high blood pressure leads to the following complications.

  • Brain:

  • Eye:

    • Retinal vascular damage (hypertensive retinopathy).

  • Blood:

    • Increased blood sugar levels.

  • Heart:

    • Heart attack (myocardial infarction).

    • Heart failure (hypertensive cardiomyopathy).

  • Kidneys:

Treatment - The management of high blood pressure includes general measures and drug therapy. The prescribed antihypertensive drugs by the health care provider should be taken to avoid unwanted complications. Also, lifestyle modifications such as the following should be practiced.

  • Relaxation techniques may be practiced to avoid unnecessary tension.

  • Salt intake should be restricted, and taking only upto 5 grams per day helps to reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

  • Alcohol intake should be reduced, and smoking should be stopped.

  • Blood sugar levels should be monitored regularly.

  • Caloric restriction in excess weight patients and weight reduction helps to reduce high blood pressure.

  • Practicing moderate exercises regularly and avoiding isometric exercises such as weight lifting can reduce high blood pressure.

4. Valvular Heart Disease (VHD):

There are four valves in the heart; they are mitral, tricuspid, aortic, and pulmonic valves. When any of the valves in the heart are damaged or diseased, it is known as valvular heart disease.

Causes - Acquired valve diseases are problems in the valve that was once normal. It could be due to a result of infections such as infective endocarditis and rheumatic fever. It can also occur due to the changes in the structure of the valve, such as:

  • Tearing or stretching of the chordae tendineae.

  • Dilatation of the valve annulus.

  • Papillary muscles.

  • Fibro-calcific degeneration.

Valvular heart disease may also occur due to:

  • Heart attacks.

  • Coronary artery disease.

  • Syphilis.

  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease).

  • Aortic aneurysms.

  • Hypertension.

  • Connective tissue diseases.

  • Some types of drugs and radiation.

  • Tumors (less likely).

Sometimes the cause of acquired valvular heart disease is unknown.

Symptoms - The symptoms of valvular heart disease may develop quickly or over a long period. There may be no symptoms when it develops very slowly until the condition is quite advanced. The symptoms seen later are:

  • Chest pain.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Fatigue.

  • Irregular heartbeat.

  • Fever.

  • Dizziness or fainting.

  • Rapid weight gain.

Treatment - This condition could be managed with medicines when it is not too severe. Surgery may be recommended when the valve is more seriously diseased and causing severe symptoms. In some conditions, the valve is replaced by open heart surgery.


Acquired heart disease causes significant risks, and these risks should be explained to people, or people should be aware of such conditions to reach a doctor. Any abnormal signs you developed recently should be noted and conveyed to the doctor to avoid complications and get treated in the earlier stage.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Examples of an Acquired Disease?

Any disease that is not present at birth but occurs during the stage of life is known as an acquired disease. Most infectious bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases are acquired diseases. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), malaria, and typhoid are a few diseases that are acquired. Diseases occurring due to altered lifestyles also come under acquired diseases.


Name an Acquired Heart Disease That Commonly Occurs.

Coronary artery disease in adults and rheumatic heart disease in children are commonly acquired heart diseases. Coronary artery disease usually occurs due to blockage in the heart's blood vessels. Rheumatic heart disease occurs due to rheumatic fever in persons aged below 25 years.


What Is the Most Severe Heart Disease?

Worst or severe heart disease is a condition that cannot be cured. Any acquired heart disease in the final stages can also be considered the worst. One such heart disease is coronary artery disease, the most commonly occurring yet severe form of heart disease.


What Are the First Occurring Signs and Symptoms of a Weak Heart?

Chest pain, sweating, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and reduced ability to perform day-to-day tasks can all be considered early signs of a weak heart. In addition, symptoms can be confused with decreased blood hemoglobin levels, which cause fatigue and heartburn.


Is There a Heart Disease That Cannot Be Cured?

Coronary heart disease cannot be cured. The treatment given for coronary heart disease helps manage the disease's symptoms and extend the patient's life span, but it cannot be eliminated.


What Is a Neglected Silent Killer Heart Disease?

Any heart attack that shows no or fewer symptoms to recognize the symptom as an abnormality can be categorized as a silent killer. It is a condition in which there is the presence of an anomaly without presenting any noticeable changes. It usually presents like heartburn or strained muscle in the chest and is ignored.


How to Detect Heart Disease?

Heart diseases can be detected based on a few diagnostic methods such as electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, coronary angiogram, and a few blood tests.
- Electrocardiogram: It is a method that detects any abnormalities in the heart's rhythm.
- Echocardiogram: An ultrasound that can detect abnormalities in the heart valves and chambers.
- Blood Tests: The presence of cholesterol and certain constituents of fat in the laboratory investigations of blood can also detect heart diseases.


At What Age Does the Heart Function Decrease?

A decrease in heart function means a decrease in the ability of the heart to pump blood properly. This decrease in function usually occurs in older adults aged above 65 years. However, individuals with other comorbidities (other medical conditions) are also prone to decreased heart function, irrespective of age.


What Is the Common Age for the Occurrence of Heart Attacks?

Heart attacks can occur at any period of life. However, statistics usually show that it is most common in older adults. Recent cases have shown a spike in the increased cases of sudden heart attacks and death in people between the ages of thirty and thirty-five. 


Is the Life Span Decreased Due to Heart Disease?

Chances of a decrease in the life span of patients with heart disease are higher. Any patient diagnosed with severe heart disease is said to live for about five years from the time of diagnosis. Until the five-year life span, the patient is given treatment to manage the symptoms and to lead a life.


Which Heart Disease Is Life-Threatening?

Any heart disease diagnosed in the later stages is life-threatening as the damage caused by it will be difficult to restore. Coronary arterial disease is a condition that does not have a proper cure, and treatment is given to lessen the intensity of the symptoms. Due to this reason, it can be considered a life-threatening disease.


Are Heart Diseases Cured Completely?

Most of the treatments for heart diseases are aimed at achieving a complete cure. Heart diseases that cannot be cured are often managed through medications. A proper cure for any disease is given by removing the cause of the disease. But in conditions of severe heart diseases, performing surgeries to remove the cause can also be life-threatening to cure. Hence, in certain cases, the patient is not suitable for surgery. In such cases, it cannot be cured completely. Rather, the condition is managed.


How Can a Heart Blockage Be Identified?

Heart blockages are common causes of heart failure. These are caused mainly due to the modern lifestyle and consuming a processed diet. These heart blocks consist of fat (cholesterol), calcium or sodium salts, and debris. A CT (computed tomography ) scan, which digitally visualizes the internal structure of heart vessels along with an angiogram, can detect heart blockages.


Name a Test to Diagnose a Weak Heart.

A weak heart usually presents symptoms such as chest pain and a history of previous heart attacks. Clinical examination, proper medical history, blood tests, and electrocardiogram (ECG) can help detect a weak heart. Blood tests detect the presence of a protein called natriuretic peptide secreted by the heart that stabilizes blood pressure. High levels of natriuretic protein can identify the presence of a weak heart or heart failure.


Can Blood Investigations Confirm Heart Failure?

The blood sample is collected and sent to the lab to detect the levels of potassium and sodium (electrolytes), albumin (protein), creatinine (related to the kidney), and certain biomarkers that help in diagnosing heart failure. In addition, abnormal values and the presence of certain blood strains on the liver and kidneys due to heart failure may indicate the presence of heart failure.
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Dr. Sapkal Ganeshrao Patilba
Dr. Sapkal Ganeshrao Patilba



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