Heart Disease (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Heart disease facts
- Introduction to heart disease
- What are the risk factors for heart disease?
- What are the symptoms of heart disease?
- How is heart disease diagnosed?
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- Stress testing
- Perfusion studies
- Computerized tomography
- Heart catheterization or coronary angiography
- What is the treatment for heart disease?
- Prevention of heart disease
- Modifying risk factors for heart disease
- Medications for heart disease
- Angioplasty and stents for heart disease
- Surgery for heart disease
- Heart Disease FAQs
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Family history
- Peripheral artery disease
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
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.
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