6 Heart Conditions Explained

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Heart disease forms

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. today. In 2010 alone, heart disease cost the U.S. economy $316.4 billion and was responsible for 1 in every 4 deaths among Americans.


Angina or angina pectoris is a type of chest pain that's caused by a reduction in the blood flow to the heart muscle. People who have this condition describe it as a feeling of squeezing, heaviness, or tightness in the chest. It is usually accompanied by pain. Angina can be either stable (a chronic problem) or unstable (a medical emergency). It is a symptom of coronary artery disease.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart rhythm disorder caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the heart. It causes an irregular or rapid heart beat. It is most common in people over age 50. Though some people who have AF have no symptoms, others experience heart palpitations, weakness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Stroke is the most serious complication of AF.

Heart attack

Heart attacks are caused by a blockage of blood to an area of the heart. Though some people will have sudden and intense pain, most heart attacks start with mild symptoms. These include discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and then returns; pain in the jaw, back, neck, or arms; shortness of breath; nausea; sweating; or lightheadedness.

Mitral valve prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse happens when the valve that separates the upper and lower chambers on the left side of the heart can't close properly. Experts say 10 percent of the population has this problem, and many don't know it. Symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath. Rare complications include infections in the heart valve and enlargement of the left ventricle.

Congestive heart failure

Congestive heart failure is diagnosed when the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. It is usually caused by coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart valve problems, some heart rhythm disorders, and some congenital heart defects. Symptoms include shortness of breath on exertion; swelling; irregular or rapid pulse; fatigue.

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD), the leading cause of death in the U.S., is the narrowing of small blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to the heart. It's most common cause is atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries. CAD can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack, among others.