Frequently Asked Questions – Heart Symptoms

What is heart disease?

Heart disease begins when cholesterol, fatty material, and calcium build up in the arteries. When this occurs in the arteries that supply the heart, this buildup, or plaque, causes the arteries to narrow, so that oxygen delivery to the heart is reduced. The reduction in oxygen delivery to the heart can create chest pain, also called angina.

What Is a Heart Attack?

Heart attack occurs when there is a sudden interruption in the heart’s blood supply. This happens when there is a blockage in the coronary arteries, the vessels that carry blood to the heart muscle. When blood flow is blocked, heart muscle can be damaged very quickly and die. Prompt emergency treatments have reduced the number of deaths from heart attacks in recent years.

What are Heart Attack Symptoms?

A heart attack is an emergency even when symptoms are mild.
Warning signs include:

  • Pain or pressure in the chest.
  • Discomfort spreading to the back, jaw, throat, or arm.
  • Nausea, indigestion, or heartburn.
  • Weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats.

What are the Signs of Coronary Artery Disease?

A precursor to a heart attack, coronary artery disease or CAD occurs when sticky plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. This narrows the arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow through. Many people don’t know they have CAD until a heart attack strikes. But there are warning signs, such as recurring chest pain caused by the restricted blood flow. This pain is known as angina.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Some of the common risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Obesity

What are lifestyle risk factors for heart disease?

Lifestyle risk factors that contribute to heart disease include:

  • lack of exercise
  • high-fat diet
  • emotional stress
  • having a “type A” personality (aggressive, impatient, competitive).