Understanding heart problems

Keep your heart beating

By Brandie Umar, Executive Director of ContentLast modified: October 03, 2011

Understanding Heart Problems

Heart problems can remain undetected and many congenital heart problems will not have obvious symptoms. It is important that anyone who thinks they may have a problem with their heart visit a cardiologist who will perform routine heart checks.



Chest pain that is recurrent and non-acute is often a symptom of angina. Angina is a narrowing of the coronary arteries that is treated with a coronary angioplasty. Angina pain normally occurs as a tightness or pressure in the chest.


Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat are caused by cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that makes the heart beat too slow or too fast. Often people with irregular heartbeats can be treated with medication to steady the heart rate. If medication does not solve the problem, patients may need to be fitted with a pacemaker to control the heartbeat.


Heart valve disease

Heart valve disease can remain undetected as the symptoms are not obviously related to a heart condition. Fainting, dizziness, migraines and fatigue are all symptoms of non-serious health problems, however if combined with chest pain, high or low blood pressure or palpitations, these could be signs that the heart valves are not functioning correctly. Heart valve disease is treated with surgery to repair or replace the defective valve.


Hole in the heart

A hole in the heart, or atrial septal defect (ASD) is a common congenital heart defect that affects 1/4 people. Many ASD's close by themselves and do not require surgery, however larger holes in the heart can be closed using one of two surgical procedures. Congenital heart defects are mainly symptom-less although people with holes in the heart may feel a shortness of breath.


Heart attack

Heart attacks often occur with no prior warning. The main symptom of a heart attack is a severe sharp pain in the chest. this pain may begin as a dull ache and gradually intensify. Heart attack pain can spread to the shoulders, neck and arms. Shortness of breath, nausea and cold sweats can also be signs of a heart attack if accompanying chest pain. 


Heart attacks are caused by a blockage of one of the arteries. Early treatment to open the clogged artery is needed to prevent severe damage to the heart muscles. Anybody having a heart attack should immediately seek hospital treatment. Doctors will administer medication to ease the strain on the heart and to prevent blood clots forming and blocking the arteries further.


Surgical treatment to repair the heart is often needed after major heart attacks. A coronary artery heart bypass graft may be needed to redirect blood flow around a major blockage in an artery.


Heart Failure

Heart failure is a progressive disease that destroys the cardiovascular system and prevents the heart from moving blood around the body efficiently. The symptoms of heart failure can be difficult to identify as heart failure patients often are not in severe pain. If patients have shortness of breath, are tired excessively, swollen legs and ankles and are experiencing weight loss or gain for no obvious reason, these could be symptoms of heart failure. If diagnosed early, heart failure can be prevented with medication and minor surgeries to correct the defect that is putting pressure on the heart. Preventative surgeries for heat failure are coronary angioplasty, heart valve surgery and heart bypass surgery. If heart failure progresses, patients may need a heart transplant. 


Anyone who is experiencing chest pain or symptoms that could be related to problems with the heart should contact a cardiologist immediately. 










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