What are the most severe heart diseases?

The term “heart disease” refers to a wide range of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and congenital heart disease. These are the most common type of heart diseases.

All types may lead to a heart attack or death. You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by living a healthy lifestyle – quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling your blood pressure, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Different types of heart diseases have different heart treatments, but many share the same symptoms. An accurate diagnosis and the right treatment can only be prescribed by your cardiologist.

Become familiar with heart disease symptoms and contact your heart specialist if you notice new symptoms or if your symptoms become worse.

Learn about the causes of heart diseases so you can reduce your chances of developing or aggravating the disease.

Coronary Artery Disease

In most patients with coronary artery disease, chest pain or angina is the most prevalent symptom. The severity of the pain varies greatly. It can be from mild discomfort in the chest to severe burning, or somewhere in between.

Angina is often mistaken for heartburn or indigestion and may be felt in other parts of the body besides the chest.

Other symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unexplained sweating
  • Nausea


An abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • A pounding feeling in your chest
  • Fainting for no apparent reason
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak or fatigued
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Discomfort in the chest

Atrial Fibrillation

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF) are the same as with arrhythmia because it is a different type of the same disease. People with AF may not experience any symptoms at all.

Heart Valve Disease

Symptoms of heart valve disease include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak or dizzy
  • Chest discomfort
  • Heart palpitations

In some cases, heart valve disease can lead to heart failure, which may cause additional symptoms such as swollen ankles, swollen abdomen, or sudden weight gain – as much as 2 -3 pounds in one day.

Unfortunately, the severity of your symptoms is not necessarily an indication of how serious your condition may be.

Some people with severe heart valve disease don’t experience any symptoms.

Alternatively, some people with mitral valve prolapse might experience very severe symptoms, but tests only show minor heart valve disease.

Heart Failure

Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • A cough associated with white sputum
  • Shortness of breath, even while at rest
  • Sudden weight gain – as much as 2 -3 pounds in one day
  • Swollen ankles, abdomen, and legs
  • Feeling weak and overly tired
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats or palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the chest

As with heart valve disease, symptoms of heart failure are not necessarily related to the severity of your condition. You could have many symptoms, yet only mildly weakened heart function.

Or your heart could be severely damaged, yet you only experience a few mild symptoms or none at all.

Congenital Heart Defect

A congenital heart defect is often diagnosed before birth but can go undetected until adulthood.

Many people never have any symptoms and are only diagnosed because their doctor found a heart murmur during a physical exam, or an X-ray or EKG test showed abnormal results.

Symptoms in adults may include the same symptoms as heart failure or heart valve disease, as well as limited physical strength.

In infants and children the symptoms may include:

  • Cyanosis – purplish color on the skin, lips, and fingernails
  • No appetite and slow weight gain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Frequent lung infections
  • No energy

Heart Muscle Disease

Cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease, often does not produce any symptoms and many people are able to live a normal, active life.

Other people do have symptoms, which get progressively worse as the heart function deteriorates.

Heart muscle disease can strike people of any age. Symptoms are the same as heart failure symptoms.

Aspirin Therapy

The fact that aspirin can reduce the risk of a heart attack in people with heart disease is well documented.

It is now also an accepted fact that aspirin can reduce the risk of heart disease symptoms in people at risk of developing the disease.

Your doctor will be able to tell you if aspirin therapy might be right for you.

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