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Heart Disease

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Signs and Symptoms

Heart diseases may be have a rapid onset (acute) or develop over time (chronic). They may be transient, relatively stable, or progressive. They may cause a variety of signs and symptoms that frequently change and/or worsen over time.

Chronic heart diseases can have episodes with acutely worsened symptoms; these may resolve on their own or with treatment, persist, or become life-threatening.

People with early heart disease may experience few or vague symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

However, these symptoms do not indicate the particular type of heart disease present. These symptoms may also be seen with a variety of other conditions.

As the disease progresses, signs and symptoms may worsen and include additional ones such as:

  • Swelling of feet, legs and/or abdomen
  • Irregular heart beat or changes in the strength of heart contractions (arrhythmia)
  • Chest pain, discomfort or pressure
  • Referred pain that is felt in the left shoulder, arm, back, or jaw
  • Dilation—stretching of one or more of the heart chambers, causing their interiors to become larger because of increased pressure
  • Inability to keep up with increased demands for oxygen and clearance of waste products, such as during physical activity
  • Insufficient contraction—chambers of the heart do not empty or fill completely as the heart pumps blood
  • Ventricular hypertrophy—increased thickness of the walls of the heart, causing a decrease in the size of the chambers and also a decrease in the flexibility of the heart

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