Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 600,000 die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s one in every four deaths. In addition to the fatality rate, about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack annually.

With these numbers reaching alarming highs, it’s important that everyone knows what heart disease is and how to recognize it. There are several types of heart disease. Each type requires different treatment, but may share similar warning signs. To protect yourself against heart disease, it’s important to know about the various types.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease, or simply, heart disease, is a result of plaque buildup in your arteries. This blocks blood flow and heightens the risk for heart attack and stroke.

The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, or chest pain. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or painful feeling in your chest. Other symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Heart Attack

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle caused by plaque buildup “starving” the heart for oxygen. During artery blockage caused by plaque buildup, death of heart muscle cells occurs, creating permanent damage. Symptoms include:

  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat or arm
  • Fullness, indigestion or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib)

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Treatment involves medication and lifestyle changes, and sometimes procedures such as pacemakers or surgery. Atrial fibrillation is often discovered during routine checkups, because many people don't have obvious symptoms.

Most people experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations
  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath

Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease occurs when the heart valves aren’t working properly. The most common instances occur when a heart valve doesn't fully open or when a valve doesn’t close tightly, sometimes called regurgitation, or "leaky valve." In some cases, heart valve disease can lead to heart failure.

Symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath
  • Weakness or dizziness.
  • Discomfort in your chest
  • Palpitations

These are only a few of the issues categorized as heart disease. If you feel that you may be prone to heart disease, knowing your risk factors can help prevent serious complications.

The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers private, personalized consultations with a cardiology nurse practitioner. The $55 heart screening includes a 12-lead electrocardiogram; cholesterol and blood sugar testing; blood pressure, weight and body mass index calculations; and a review of your eating habits and activity choices. To schedule a screening, call (562) 933-2460.