In this Article

Symptoms

Common symptoms of cardiovascular diseases include:

  • Chest pain (also referred to as angina)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain, weakness, or numb feeling in limbs
  • Abnormal heartbeat

When to See a Doctor

If you have a family history of cardiac diseases, you should discuss a plan to regularly monitor your heart with your doctor. If symptoms arise, schedule an appointment with your provider.

Causes

While every person is different, common causes of heart-related diseases often include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Abuse of alcohol or caffeine

Diagnosis and Tests

There are a few different tests that your provider may run to monitor your heart condition and check for cardiac diseases:

  • CT or MRI scans
  • Cardiac nuclear perfusion imaging. This basic test checks the health of your heart and arteries. Your doctor might also refer to it as a SPECT scan, a nuclear scan, a cardiolyte scan, or a sestamibi scan. In this test, a radioactive chemical “tracer” is injected into your bloodstream. The tracer gives off a small amount of radiation. As the tracer moves to your heart, the radiation creates an image on a device called a gamma camera. Areas that don’t get enough blood show up as dark spots on the image.
  • Cardiac stress tests. These tests measure the health of your heart while it is working hard. In a stress test, you exercise to increase your heart’s workload, which increases the blood flowing to your heart. If you are unable to exercise, medicine is used to increase the blood flow to the heart. Your heart’s response is measured in various ways based on your condition and the type of stress test you have, which may include an electrocardiogram (ECG) and imaging tests. These tests help your doctor assess blood flow to different heart muscle areas.

Treatments

Treatment methods may differ depending on the type of cardiac disease, however providers rely on a few common approaches:

  • Diet changes. Eating a diet low in fat and salt may help.
  • Exercise. Regularly exercise can strengthen your heart, lower your cholesterol, decrease your blood pressure, and help manage risk of developing heart conditions.
  • Smoking and drinking. Quit smoking and limit how much alcohol you consume.
  • Medications
  • Surgery or other procedures

Prevention

You can do your part to prevent cardiovascular diseases by making healthy lifestyle choices, managing your cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

What are Cardiac Diseases?

Cardiac diseases, or conditions related to heart health, come in a variety of forms affecting how your heart pumps blood throughout your body. Some of these diseases include congenital heart disease (CHD), coronary artery disease, heart arrhythmias, and aortic aneurysms. The narrowing of blood vessels caused by cardiac diseases can also cause complications such as heart attacks, chest pains, or stroke.

These diseases range in severity, and may be a hereditary condition or caused by lifestyle choices.

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