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Coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack -- each type of heart problem requires different treatment but may share similar warning signs. It is important to see your doctor so that you can receive a correct diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Learn to recognize the symptoms that may signal heart disease. Call your doctor if you begin to have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, or chest pain. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing, or painful feeling in your chest. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back.
Other symptoms of coronary artery disease include:
Shortness of breath.
Palpitations (irregular heartbeats, or a "flip-flop" feeling in your chest).
A faster heartbeat.
Weakness or dizziness.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone.
Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm.
Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn).
Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness.
Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath.
Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
During a heart attack, symptoms typically last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or oral medications. Initial symptoms may start as a mild discomfort that progress to significant pain.
Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms, which is known as a "silent" myocardial infarction (MI). It occurs more often in people with diabetes.
If you think you are having a heart attack, DO NOT DELAY. Call for emergency help (dial 911 in most areas). Immediate treatment of a heart attack is very important to lessen the amount of damage to your heart.
Symptoms of Arrhythmias
When symptoms of arrhythmias, or an abnormal heart rhythm, are present, they may include:
Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or flip-flops in your chest).
Pounding in your chest.
Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
Shortness of breath.
Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of arrhythmia. Most people with AF experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering, or racing feeling in the heart).
Lack of energy.
Dizziness (feeling faint or light-headed).
Chest discomfort (pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest).
Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing during normal activities).
Some patients with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms. Sometimes these episodes are brief.
Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease
Symptoms of heart valve disease may include:
Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath. You may notice this most when you are doing your normal daily activities or when you lie down flat in bed.
Weakness or dizziness.
Discomfort in your chest. You may feel a pressure or weight in your chest with activity or when going out in cold air.
Palpitations (this may feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats, or a flip-flop feeling in your chest).
If valve disease causes heart failure, symptoms may include:
Swelling of your ankles or feet. Swelling may also occur in your abdomen, which may cause you to feel bloated.
Quick weight gain (a weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible).
Symptoms of heart valve disease do not always relate to the seriousness of your condition. You may have no symptoms at all and have severe valve disease, requiring prompt treatment. Or, as with mitral valve prolapse, you may have severe symptoms, yet tests may show minor valve disease.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Symptoms of heart failure can include:
Shortness of breath noted during activity (most commonly) or at rest, especially when you lie down flat in bed.
Cough that is productive of a white sputum.
Rapid weight gain (a weight gain of two or three pounds in one day is possible).
Swelling in ankles, legs, and abdomen.
Fatigue and weakness.
Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
Other symptoms include nausea, palpitations, and chest pain.
Like valve disease, heart failure symptoms may not be related to how weak your heart is. You may have many symptoms, but your heart function may be only mildly weakened. Or you may have a severely damaged heart, with few or no symptoms.
Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects may be diagnosed before birth, right after birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood. It is possible to have a defect and no symptoms at all. Sometimes it can be diagnosed because of a heart murmur on physical exam or an abnormal EKG or chest X-ray in someone with no symptoms.
In adults, if symptoms of congenital heart disease are present, they may include:
Shortness of breath.
Limited ability to exercise.
Symptoms of heart failure (see above) or valve disease (see above).
Congenital Heart Defects in Infants and Children
Symptoms of congenital heart defects in infants and children may include:
Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails, and lips).
Fast breathing and poor feeding.
Poor weight gain.
Recurrent lung infections.
Inability to exercise.
Symptoms of Heart Muscle Disease
Many people with heart muscle disease, or cardiomyopathy, have no symptoms or only minor symptoms, and live a normal life. Other people develop symptoms, which progress and worsen as heart function worsens.
Symptoms of cardiomyopathy may occur at any age and may include:
Chest pain or pressure (occurs usually with exercise or physical activity, but can also occur with rest or after meals).
Heart failure symptoms (see above).
Swelling of the lower extremities.
Palpitations (fluttering in the chest due to abnormal heart rhythms).
Some people also have arrhythmias. These can lead to sudden death in a small number of people with cardiomyopathy.
Symptoms of Pericarditis
When present, symptoms of pericarditis may include:
Chest pain. This pain is different from angina (chest pain caused by coronary artery disease). It may be sharp and located in the center of the chest. The pain may radiate to the neck and occasionally, the arms and back. It is made worse when lying down, taking a deep breath in, coughing, or swallowing and relieved by sitting forward.
Increased heart rate.
Diagnosis & Tests
Exactly when do you go from having risk factors to having heart disease? These links take you to information on the tests a doctor uses to diagnose heart disease.
Heart Disease Diagnosis
The first step is getting a doctor's exam. Here's a description of what the doctor will do.
The Basics of EKG
Whether you spell it EKG or ECG, it's an electrocardiogram.
Why get a chest X-ray? What happens?
Does your heart respond well to exertion? That's what a stress test looks for.
Tilt Table Test
The head-up tilt table test is used to help find the cause of fainting spells.
There are several variations on the echocardiogram, or "echo," as doctors call it. Learn about these ultrasound-like tests of the heart -- and find out what to expect.
Cardiac catheterization -- also called a coronary angiogram -- means running a catheter into your heart. It's done to help doctors see what's going on in there, and whether they need to operate.
Electrophysiology -- the EP test -- takes measurements of your heart rhythm -- recording the electrical activity and pathways of your heart.
Computed tomography (CT scan) of the heart can visualize your heart’s anatomy. Calcium-score heart scan and coronary CT angiography are just a few types used to diagnose heart disease.
A myocardial biopsy is when a doctor uses a special catheter to remove a piece of your heart tissue for examination.
A heart MRI is a great way for doctors to get a look -- from the outside -- at how your heart is working.
Pericardiocentesis -- also called a pericardial tap -- means using a needle to get a sample of the fluid in the sac surrounding the heart.
Treatment & Care
Treatments for heart disease range from low-tech to high-tech.
Treatment Heart Failure Set To Spike
The following are medical treatments available
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation -- CPR -- is one link in what the American Heart Association calls the "chain of survival." Learn CPR for a loved one.
Learn information about heart stents, why they’re used, and what types are available
Automated External Defibrillators
“AEDs" for short, are devices capable of interpreting a person's heart rhythm and automatically delivering a shock to prevent sudden death. Read more.
Heart Disease Medications Too Many Heart Pills, Doctors say
Procedures & Surgeries
Alternative treatment and Hope Heart Disease and Beriberi (B Vitamin) Deficiency
Working with a Holistic Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Homeopath or Naturopath has created great results. Looking for life-style imbalances and addressing your diet is important and vital. Developing a pro-active course of care that can help you avoid the negative side-effects of medication is ideal. Sometimes this is not possible due to the chronic nature of a person’s condition. Finding an open-minded medical practitioner who will work with your alternative practitioner is the best form of care.
A Holistic Chiropractor can help you develop a well-rounded, multifaceted approach to addressing your problem and the underlying deficiencies within your life-style and nutrition that contribute to your heart condition. Supplementation with specific heart building products will go a long way towards feeding and balancing your heart. The need for medication can be reduced and sometimes even eliminated through these whole food nutritional treatments.
Heart Disease Medication Too Many Heart Pills, Doctors say
A person with heart disease usually needs several medications. Taking them correctly is as necessary as it is difficult. Talking with your Pharmacist will allow you to understand how your medication works and what can be done to support you.
Plant-Based Diet for Heart Health Heart Healthy Diet Tips
Is a plant-based diet good for your heart? More research needs to be done, but early studies suggest it may have a number of benefits.
Heart Surgery Recovery
Heart surgery recovery takes a lot of care. There are some very, very important tips for the aftercare of a heart surgery patient.
Heart Emergency Preparedness
Don't wait until you've got an unconscious heart patient on your hands. Learn the alphabet of heart emergency preparedness: CPR, AED, and 911.
As much as you may love someone with heart disease, you can't help if you've got caregiver burnout. Be sure to take care of yourself.
Taking care of a heart patient can raise your own blood pressure. Be sure to take care of yourself and have stress relief regularly.
Religion and the Heart
Not all healing comes from doctors and medicines. For some brief advice on making spirituality part of your care giving, consult with Dr. Huntoon. He has great referral sources he can recommend to you in order to strengthen you spiritual heart.
Medicines Two Choices for You
Developing a healthy life-style is the most important thing you can do for the health of your heart. Proper guidance with routine monitoring from your Holistic Chiropractor is the best prevention when considering how to approach your health.
Click the link for a description of this week's show and a link to the podcast from:
Advanced Alternative Medicine Center
Serving All Your Heath Care Needs ... Naturally!
Dr. Richard A. Huntoon