Heart Disease (Coronary Artery 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
- What is heart disease?
- What are the risk factors for heart disease?
- What causes heart disease?
- What are the symptoms of heart disease?
- How is heart disease diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for heart disease?
- What is the prognosis for heart disease?
- Can heart disease be prevented?
- Heart Disease FAQs
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
The classic symptoms of angina, or pain from the heart, are described as a crushing pain or heaviness in the center of the chest with radiation of the pain to the arm (usually the left) or jaw. There can be associated shortness of breath or sweating. The symptoms tend to be brought on by activity and get better with rest. Some patients may complain of indigestion and nausea while others may have upper abdominal, shoulder, or back pain.
Unfortunately, not all pain from coronary artery disease presents in this manner. The more we learn about heart disease, the more we realize that symptoms can be markedly different in different groups of people. Women, people who have diabetes, and the elderly may have different pain perceptions and may complain of overwhelming fatigue and weakness or a change in their ability to perform routine daily activities like walking, climbing steps, or doing household chores. Some patients may have no discomfort at all.
Most often, the symptoms of heart disease become worse over time, as the narrowing of the affected coronary artery progresses over time and blood flow to that part of the heart decreases. It may take less activity to provoke symptoms and it may take longer for those symptoms to resolve with rest. This change in exercise tolerance is helpful in making the diagnosis.
Too often, however, the first presentation of heart disease may be a myocardial infarction, where a plaque ruptures causing one of the coronary arteries to occlude and prevent blood flow to the heart. This can lead to crushing chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, and perhaps sudden cardiac death.
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