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Heart disease is a generic term that describes many different problems affecting the heart. It can affect your coronary arteries, heart valves, and heart muscle and can also affect your heart rate and rhythm. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.
  The Most Common Kinds of Heart Disease Are:
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)/Atherosclerosis (ath·ero·scle·ro·sis):
Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries) become hardened and narrowed. The arteries harden and narrow due to buildup of a material called plaque on their inner walls. The buildup of plaque is known as atherosclerosis. As the plaque increases in size, the insides of the coronary arteries get narrower and less blood can flow through them. Eventually, blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced, and because blood carries much-needed oxygen, the heart muscle is not able to receive the amount of oxygen it needs.
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Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart does not get enough blood. People describe angina as discomfort, pressure, or pain in the chest, back, neck, shoulders, arms (especially the left arm), or jaw. Angina can be a warning of a heart attack.
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Heart Attack:
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
  • Chest discomfort - Most heart attacks involve a discomforting feeling in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body - Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath - May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs - May include breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling nauseated, or light headed.
Heart attack symptoms can be different for men and women. As with men, women’s most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you or someone with you has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away. For more information about 9-1-1, please visit www.911.utah.gov/index.php.

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Heart Valve Disease:
The heart has four chambers. The upper two are the right and left atria. The lower two are the right and left ventricles. Blood is pumped through the chambers, aided by four heart valves. The valves open and close to let the blood flow in only one direction. Each valve has a set of flaps (also called leaflets or cusps). When working properly, the heart valves open and close fully. A defective heart valve is one that fails to fully open or close. A person can be born with an abnormal heart valve, a type of congenital heart defect. Also, a valve can become damaged by:
  • infections such as infective endocarditis
  • rheumatic fever
  • changes in valve structure in the elderly
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Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy (car·dio·my·op·a·thy):
Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Key symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, a dry and hacking cough, weight gain, swelling, and fatigue.

Heart failure develops as a result of weakening of the heart muscle. This weakening is often brought on by other conditions that damage the heart muscle, including atherosclerosis, heart attack, high blood pressure, heart valve problems, and alcohol abuse. Heart muscle weakening and damage is often called cardiomyopathy, which literally means “heart muscle disease.” Cardiomyopathy can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary cardiomyopathy can't be attributed to a specific cause, such as high blood pressure, heart valve disease, artery diseases, or congenital heart defects. Secondary cardiomyopathy is due to specific causes. It's often associated with diseases involving other organs as well as the heart.
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Arrhythmias (ar·rhyth·mi·as):
An arrhythmia is a change in the rhythm of your heartbeat. When the heart beats too fast, it's called tachycardia (tach·y·car·di·a). When it beats too slow, it's called bradycardia (brad·y·car·di·a). An arrhythmia can also mean that your heart beats irregularly (skips a beat or has an extra beat). At some time or another, most people have felt their heart race or skip a beat. These occasional changes can be brought on by strong emotions or exercise. They are usually not a cause for alarm. Arrhythmias that occur more often or cause symptoms may be more serious and need to be discussed with your doctor.
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Heart Defects:
Although the term “heart defect” can refer to many different heart problems, it’s often used to talk about defects affecting the wall (septum) that divides the two upper or two lower chambers of the heart. Three of the more common defects are: Atrial septal defect (ASD), Patent foramen ovale (PFO), and Ventricular septal defect (VSD).
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