What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease covers many problems that affect your heart. These include blood vessel diseases like coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, and congenital heart defects as well as other conditions.
Heart disease is also referred to as cardiovascular disease, which involves narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke.
Other heart conditions that affect your heart's muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart diseases.
Who is affected by Heart Disease
17% of Australians suffer from heart disease or some form of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease remains a major health burden for Australia and causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year.
How does Heart Disease Affect You?
Heart disease can be a key driver of conditions affecting the heart or the circulation of blood through the blood vessels. Such conditions can include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Arrhythmias – abnormal heart beats
- Aneurysm – a bulge caused by weakening of the heart muscle or artery
- Septal defect – an abnormal opening between the left and right sides of the heart
- Peripheral vascular disease – a disease of the large blood vessels of the arms, legs, and feet
- Rheumatic heart disease – caused by rheumatic fever, and mainly affecting the heart valves
- Congenital heart disease – defects or malformations in the heart or blood vessels that occur before birth.
Causes of Heart Disease?
Causes or risk factors associated with heart disease can be categorised in two ways:
Risk Factors within your control
- Lack of physical activity
- High blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Unhealthy diet especially high salt and alcohol consumption
Risks Factors beyond your control
- Genetics or Family history
- Older age
- Gender: Women's risk grows and may be equal to men after menopause.
- Ethnic background
Symptoms of Heart Disease?
Heart Disease typically can have many forms, but sometimes heart disease may have no symptoms.
Commonly observed symptoms can include:
- Chest pain or chest palpitation
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn
- Pain that spreads to the arm
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Throat or jaw pain
- Being easily exhausted
- Snoring causing heart stress
- Cold sweats
- Swollen legs and ankles
- Irregular heartbeat
Diagnosis of Heart Disease
When you visit our doctors, and have any concerns about your heart please ask. Alternately, if you are at risk, our doctors will ask questions around your risk factors.
No matter what type of heart disease you have, your doctor will likely
- perform a physical exam and
- ask about your personal and family medical history
Tests may include:
- blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Blood pressure
Treatment Choices for Heart Disease
Keeping your heart healthy, whatever your age, is the most important thing you can do to help prevent and manage heart disease.
By improving your lifestyle, including your diet and level of fitness, you can minimise your risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.
Even if you have two or more risk factors, you can still make changes that will reduce your chances of developing heart problems.
Treatments for Heart Disease
Treatments vary widely and can include
- Lifestyle changes
- Other therapies
Where required, our doctors will arrange referrals to a suitable specialist for treatment. These can include Cardiologists or Cardiovascular surgeons.