There are many different forms of heart disease. Two of the most common are:
- Coronary Heart Disease: This is the most common form of heart disease. It is caused by narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart). These blockages build up slowly over time. This is the major reason people have heart attacks.
- Heart Valve Disease: Heart valves control the flow of blood from one part of the heart to another. Heart valve disease occurs when one of the valves in the heart does not work correctly. When this happens, the heart pumps blood much less efficiently. This can cause heart problems. Some people are born with this type of heart disease.
Heart disease symptoms vary depending on the type of heart disease. Some of the most common symptoms for all types of heart disease are:
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Swelling (edema) in the legs and feet.
- Easily tiring with exercise or activities.
- Fainting or falling.
- General tiredness/weakness/fatigue.
How Is Heart Disease Treated?
Heart disease treatments vary based on the type of heart disease. People may need changes in their diet and exercise or they may need treatments such as medications or surgery.
If heart disease is not managed well, there is a much greater risk of developing serious, even life threatening problems. However, if well managed, people can live many years with heart problems and are often able to continue the activities they enjoy.
What Should I Be Alert For?
Some of the most significant symptoms and signs of worsening heart disease are:
- Rapid weight gain (usually from extra fluid and swelling in the body).
- Increased fatigue, sluggish behaviors, difficulty participating in activities.
- Discoloration of extremities (arms, hands, legs, feet), especially a bluish, purple color.
- Sweating, nausea and vomiting, or dizziness.
- Sudden swelling in feet and lower legs.
- Chest pain.
Medication side effects: If a person is taking medication for heart disease, ask the pharmacist or doctor about any potential side effects that you should look for or report. Each person reacts differently to medications. There are often several different medication options available, making it possible to change to one that does not cause problems for the individual.
What Are Some Tips for Managing Heart Disease?
- Heart disease can improve with exercise. Encourage daily activities and exercise. Be sure to consult the person’s doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- Encourage a healthy diet with mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grain carbohydrates and lean protein. People with heart disease should try to follow a low sodium diet if possible.
- People with heart disease do much better if they can maintain a normal weight.
- Encourage no smoking/smoking cessation.