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What are Heart Problems?

The heart is one of the most important organs in the body. This smooth muscle expands and contracts rhythmically our entire lifetime, pumping blood to our lungs and then to every other cell in our body. When heart problems occur, it becomes difficult for the body to get the nutrients and oxygen it needs via the blood. So while there are a variety of illnesses and disorders that affect the heart, most of them make you feel weak, tired, and short of breath. The most common heart conditions include heart disease, angina, arrhythmia, and valve disorders.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. This includes coronary artery disease, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease. Some conditions, such as genetics, cannot be controlled. But there are many other things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing or stopping smoking, exercising more and losing weight if needed, and eating a diet low in sodium can all protect your heart.

Angina is a squeezing type of chest pain that happens when the muscles around your heart don’t get enough oxygen. It can be regular or infrequent. Usually, angina is caused by coronary heart disease. However, not all chest pain is angina. Chest pain can also be caused by a lung infection or panic attack, for example, so it is important to have any sudden pain checked.

Arrhythmia is the word for when the heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly with skipped beats. It can feel frightening, and depending on the type it can be dangerous, but in most cases arrhythmia is not serious and can be treated. It is very common, especially in older adults.

Heart valve problems can happen in any one of the the heart’s four valves that keep blood flowing where it needs to go. Babies can be born with problems in their heart valves, or valves can be damaged by infections. The valves can stiffen and become less mobile, or they can stop closing properly and ‘leak’ when the heart beats. Valve problems can usually be repaired surgically.