What Is Heart Disease?

Coronary artery disease is a common type of heart disease and the leading cause of heart attacks.

Heart disease refers to conditions that involve the heart, its vessels, muscles, valves, or internal electric pathways responsible for muscular contraction. Common heart disease conditions include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heart valve disease
  • Arrhythmias

Coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart attacks. It is the most common kind of heart disease in the U.S.

What Is a Heart Attack?

Awareness of heart attack causes and prevention helps save lives.

When a coronary artery becomes blocked (usually by a blood clot), an area of heart tissue loses its blood supply. This reduction of blood can quickly damage and/or kill heart tissue, so quick treatments in an emergency department and/or catheterization suite are necessary to reduce the loss of heart tissue. Loss of heart tissue due to a blockage can cause symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, and even death. Quick treatments have reduced the number of deaths from heart attacks in recent years. About 790,000 people suffer from heart attacks in the U.S. each year.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Chest pain is the most telltale symptom of a heart attack.

The following are warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain (may spread to the back, neck, arms and/or jaw)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Some people may exhibit anxiety, indigestion and/or heartburn (some women may present with these as their predominant symptoms instead of chest pain)
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Women may experience different heart attack signs and symptoms than men. Jaw pain, shortness of breath, and nausea and vomiting may be more common in women who have heart attacks than men.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Female jogger experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.

Although some women present with symptoms of chest pain, a large number of women will not present with chest pain. Instead, women commonly have a different set of heart attack symptoms.

Know These Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Arrhythmias
  • Cough
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise

Such symptoms in women cause delays in diagnosis if the symptoms are not considered as possible signs of heart disease. Delays in diagnosis can cause further damage to heart tissue or even death. Women should exercise, quit smoking, start exercising, and see their doctors for regular check-ups to monitor heart disease risk factors.