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Heart problems - symptoms and diagnosesHeart Symptoms and Diagnoses

Angina

This refers to cardiac sounding chest pain. It is classically felt across the central chest (like a tight band) and may radiate to the jaw or down the left arm. It is caused by a relative reduction in the flow of oxygenated blood within the coronary arteries. This is typically caused by a stenosis (narrowing) in the coronary arteries.

 

It is disease of arterial blood vessels. It is a chronic inflammatory response in the walls of arteries, in large part due to the deposition of fatty deposits (including cholesterol and triglycerides) called plaques. When it affects the coronary arteries it is called coronary artery disease or coronary atherosclerosis. It is commonly referred to as a "hardening" or "furring" of the arteries.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

This is a condition in which the normal electrical impulses that are generated by the sinoatrial node (the natural pacemaker of the heart), in the upper right heart chamber are overwhelmed by disorganized electrical impulses within the upper heart chambers (atria) leading to conduction of irregular impulses to the ventricles (lower chambers) that generate the heartbeat. The result is an irregular heartbeat which may occur in episodes lasting from seconds to weeks, or it could occur all the time for years.

It is the most common sustained heart rhythm disturbance. In fact in a recent study it was discovered that up to 1 in 4 persons will experience it at some point in their lifetime. It is associated with an increased risk of stroke. The stroke risk depends on a number of factors, such as patient age and the presence of co morbidities eg diabetes. AF may be asymptomatic, but can also lead to palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue amongst other symptoms.

Heart Failure (HF)
 

This is a condition in which a problem with the structure or function of the heart impairs its ability to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body's needs. Its presentation can be highly variable ranging from no more than very minor to severe symptoms (eg fatigue or breathlessness). There are an increasing number of highly effective treatments available that have been shown to improve prognosis (survival) and symptoms. 

Palpitations

This is an abnormal awareness of the heart beat. It may felt as being too fast or too slow or even beating at a normal rate (60-100 per minute). It can be either regular or irregular. Attacks may last anything from seconds to hours. They do not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the heart. However, one should discuss with their doctor if they are worried and in particular where there is associated chest discomfort, lightheadedness and/or breathlessness.

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

It is an abnormal fast heart rhythm that starts in the upper chambers, or the atria, of the heart ('supraventricular' means above the ventricles, 'tachy' means fast, and 'cardia' means heart). Normally, the heart's electrical system precisely controls the rhythm and rate at which the heart beats. In supraventricular tachycardia, abnormal electrical connections (or abnormal firing of the connections) cause the heart to beat too fast (>100 per minute).

Syncope

This refers to a sudden loss of consciousness. This can be precipitated by a number of conditions. If this has happened to you, it should not be ignored and warrants a medical opinion.