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5 Types of Heart Disease and Their Warning Signs

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. See a doctor if you recognize any of these symptoms.

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Coronary artery disease

Clogged arteries often lead to this type of heart disease, which accounts for one in seven deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the American Heart Association. Plaque buildup in the main blood vessels of the heart stymie blood flow to the muscle. “This is the number one type of heart disease that we take care of,” says Sandhya Balaram, MD, associate professor of cardiovascular surgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Since arteries clog over time due to a variety of risk factors—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a sedentary lifestyle—many patients don’t notice any symptoms until there’s significant blockage. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, or even heart attack. These are the silent signs of a heart attack.

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Valve disease

The heart is made up of four main valves, which open and close like doors to control blood flow. They’re usually soft like tissue paper, says Dr. Balaram, but when they become calcified (hard deposits of calcium accumulate) they become stiff and narrow, reducing blood flow. Valves can also not close properly, causing blood to leak back into the heart. If you have a heart murmur, this could be why. Here are 15 life-saving tips to prevent heart disease.

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Heart attack

Every year, 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is completely cut off, usually by a blood clot, causing the muscle to begin dying. Symptoms include: pain in the area between the shoulder blades, neck or jaw pain or discomfort, pain in the left arm, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, clammy skin, sweating, or a feeling of impending doom.

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Arrhythmia

The heart usually has its own regular rhythm of beats. But when it beats too slow (less than 60 beats per minute), too fast (more than 100 beats per minute), or irregularly, this could signal arrhythmia. This can impact how much blood the heart can pump and is treated with medication or a pacemaker.

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Pericardial disease

The heart is surrounded by a thin tissue sac called the pericardium; when this becomes inflamed due to infection, heart surgery, heart attack, cancer, or an autoimmune disease, it can cause symptoms like chest pain, low-grade fever, or increased heart rate. Treatment may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), steroids, or antibiotics. Here are 30 proven ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Alyssa Jung
Alyssa Jung is a writer and editor with extensive experience creating health and wellness content that resonates with readers and performs well on social platforms. She freelanced for several local publications in Upstate New York and spent three years as a newspaper reporter before moving to New York City to pursue a career in magazines.She spent five years writing, editing, and fact-checking for Reader's Digest and rd.com before moving on to Rodale's Prevention magazine, where she is a Senior Associate Editor for print and a contributor to Prevention.com.