Published on Jul 30, 2019 and last reviewed on Feb 03, 2023 - 6 min read
Many types of heart problems can affect the heart muscles, heart valves, or blood flow to the heart. Learn about the various types and symptoms of heart problems.
Problems in the heart can be anything from defects in the blood vessels or the circulatory system, heart rhythm abnormalities, heart muscle abnormalities, and congenital birth defects. Heart problems are the leading cause of death worldwide. In the US, 1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease.
Heart diseases involving the blood vessels (atherosclerotic disease):
Coronary artery disease.
Peripheral arterial disease.
Hypertensive heart disease.
Pulmonary heart disease.
Congenital heart disease.
CAD is caused by vascular injury caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries supplying the heart, which is called atherosclerosis. This plaque buildup can partially or completely block the arteries, causing reduced blood flow or stopping the blood flow altogether. This causes the heart muscle supplied by the blocked artery, devoid of oxygen.
Chest pain or heaviness or tightness.
Arm or shoulder pain.
Nausea and vomiting.
PAD usually results in restricted blood flow to the legs and feet, which is caused by the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels.
Pain in the calves.
Numbness and tingling sensation in legs or feet.
Injury to the leg heals slowly.
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the aorta, which is the largest artery of the body. If left untreated, an aortic aneurysm can grow and rupture.
Sudden and intense pain in the abdomen or back.
Cardiomyopathy is a progressive disease that causes the heart muscle to weaken, which makes the heart muscles unable to pump blood to the rest of the body. The different types of cardiomyopathies are:
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
Noncompaction or spongiform cardiomyopathy.
Shortness of breath on exertion.
Swelling of the feet, ankles, and legs.
In people with high blood pressure, the heart has to work under increased pressure, which causes heart diseases like heart failure, heart muscle thickening, coronary artery disease, and other heart problems.
Feeling of tightness or pressure over the chest.
Shoulder, back, neck, and arm pain due to raised blood pressure.
Swelling of the ankle and feet.
Here, the heart is unable to pump an adequate quantity of blood to the body. It can result from other heart conditions or after a heart attack. The types of heart failure are:
Left-sided heart failure.
Right-sided heart failure.
Diastolic heart failure.
Systolic heart failure.
Sudden weight gain.
Loss of appetite.
Leg and ankle swelling.
Veins in the neck look protruded.
Pulmonary heart disease or cor pulmonale is a heart condition that results from increased blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), which results in enlargement and failure of the right side of the heart. Here, the arteries in the lungs get blocked or destroyed.
Cyanosis - bluish discoloration of the skin.
Any irregularity in the heartbeat is called cardiac arrhythmias. Arrhythmias can be caused due to bradycardia, tachycardia, flutter or fibrillation, or premature contraction. It occurs when the electrical impulses to the heart that regulates beating do not function properly. The different types of arrhythmias are:
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
Fast heartbeats (tachycardia).
Slow heartbeats (bradycardia).
Shortness of breath.
Heart infections occur when bacteria or virus or parasite or other chemical reaches the heart muscles and causes inflammation or damage to the heart linings. The types of heart infections are:
Pericarditis - It is the inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the heart.
Endocarditis - Inflammation of the inner lining or heart valve is called endocarditis.
Myocarditis - Inflammation of the heart muscles due to a viral infection or autoimmune response.
Shortness of breath.
Red spots under the fingernails.
Purple or red spots on the skin, eyes, and mouth.
Joint and muscle pain.
Blood in urine.
Diseases of the heart valves occur when one or more valves of the heart do not function properly. The heart has four main valves, namely mitral, tricuspid, aortic, and pulmonary valves, which help the blood flow in the correct direction in the heart. The problems include:
Regurgitation - Here the valve does not close properly, as a result, blood flows backward.
Stenosis - The valve becomes thick or stiff, causing narrowing of the valve opening.
Atresia - In this condition, the valve is not formed.
Ankle and feet swelling.
Heart abnormalities present at birth are called congenital heart diseases. It can cause defects in either the heart walls or heart valves or blood vessels. The most common congenital heart diseases are:
Ventricular septal defect.
Atrial septal defect.
Tetralogy of Fallot.
Single ventricle defects.
Pulmonary valve stenosis.
Patent ductus arteriosus.
Aortic valve stenosis.
Bluish or grayish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis).
Rapid and difficulty breathing.
Poor weight gain.
Swelling in legs, abdomen, and surrounding the eyes.
Rheumatic heart disease is caused when rheumatic fever results in the thickening or stenosis of one or more heart valves.
Some common heart problems and heart diseases are -
- Coronary Artery Disease - Blood vessels of the heart are damaged.
- Heart Attack - Blockage in the blood flow to the heart.
- Arrhythmia - Irregular heart rhythm and heart rate.
- Stroke - Blocked blood supply and damage to the brain.
Here are some warning signs of heart problems -
- Increased heart rate and palpitations (strong irregular heartbeat that causes severe distress).
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Chest discomfort.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Frequent chest pains and neck and jaw pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Edema or ankle swelling.
- Vaping-induced lung injury.
- Lung diseases.
- Muscle strain.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Generalized anxiety disorder.
- Panic disorder.
- Chest injury.
These are some of the conditions which can be mistaken for heart diseases.
Various parameters at home can monitor heart health -
- Measuring Heart Rate - In healthy conditions, the heart rate should range from 72 to 80 beats per minute.
- Measuring Blood Pressure - Blood pressure is around 120/80 millimeters of mercury in healthy conditions.
- Stair Test - If a person takes one-and-a-half minutes to ascend four flights of stairs, heart health may be compromised and need immediate attention.
- Shortness of Breath on any aerobic exercise may indicate compromised heart health. Look for these signs and symptoms, which may indicate compromised heart health.
The most serious heart condition is a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, which means a blockage in the blood supply to the heart. This occurs mostly due to blood clots or fatty depositions of triglycerides in the blood vessels supplying the heart. Due to this, the heart is devoid of blood and oxygen supply. This can cause severe chest pain and discomfort, and shortness of breath, leading to death.
Signs and symptoms of the blocked artery (myocardial infarction or heart attack) include crushing chest pain or tightness, extreme pressure, shoulder or arm pain, difficulty in breathing, and perspiration (sweating). Women may experience slightly different symptoms, such as jaw pain radiating to neck pain, upper back pain, constant vomiting, nausea, and extreme tiredness and fatigue. Some heart attacks may be asymptomatic and may not cause noticeable signs or symptoms.
Yes, blood tests can detect heart diseases and even indicate the severity of heart diseases.
- High cholesterol levels - High HDL and LDL levels (high or low-density lipoproteins) increase the risk of heart problems.
- High CRP levels (C-reactive protein is a protein in the liver that is released in response to infection, inflammation, or any traumatic injury).
- High levels of lipoprotein may also indicate heart disease.
- High levels of ceramides - Body cells release ceramides that play a role in the growth, function, and ultimately death of many types of tissue. These levels may rise in case of damaged heart tissues.
- High levels of brain natriuretic peptide (BNP)- High levels of BNP are released into the bloodstream when the heart is damaged. BNP is released as a response to try to ease the strain on the heart.
- Increased troponin T levels - In cases where there are no symptoms of a compromised heart, increased troponin T may indicate underlying heart conditions.
ECG can be used to detect blocked arteries, as the test can detect irregularities in heart rhythm and impaired blood flow to the heart. However, ECG may appear normal if the heart's electrical activity is not affected due to minor blocks or blocked arteries further away from the heart. However, ECG may appear normal if the heart's electrical activity is not affected due to minor blocks or blocked arteries further away from the heart.
A cardiologist will
- Make a note of the patient's health history and family history.
- Note down the signs and symptoms.
- Check the vitals (heart rate, pulse rate, blood pressure, and temperature).
- May ask one to get blood and urine samples checked.
- May prescribe further investigations.
- Prescribe medications if needed.
- Provide precautionary measures to prevent heart diseases.
Congestive heart failure is often associated with feeling cold. It is one of the classical signs of heart disease. This is because of reduced cardiac output (the heart becomes less able to pump blood effectively), and the blood cannot reach different body parts, especially the extremities like hands and legs. Due to this, the person starts feeling cold and clammy on their palms and feet. Most people also believe a person who is more prone to feeling cold at all times may be at a higher risk of heart disease.
A chest x-ray captures images of the bones, organs, and structures inside the chest, including the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. A chest x-ray can indicate signs of heart failure and blockage. However, different investigations like stress tests, cardiac pet scans, and coronary angiograms are required to confirm the diagnosis of heart blockages.
The lifespan of an individual living with blocked arteries is unpredictable. It depends on the percentage of blockage and the severity of other underlying factors like the presence of diseases like diabetes and other environmental and dietary factors like lack of exercise and high cholesterol levels. A person may be able to live longer if the right precautionary measures are taken.
Women often experience slightly different symptoms other than the usual ones, like chest pain and arm pain. They also experience shortness of breath, nausea, neck and back pain, or jaw pain. Chest pain is mostly due to bacterial infections, viral infections, and other diseases, or simply acute anxiety and discomfort in the upper left chest area due to abdominal pressure or gas.
Last reviewed at:
03 Feb 2023 - 6 min read
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