An aneurysm is a bulge or “ballooning” in the wall of an artery. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen­-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body. If an aneurysm grows large, it can burst and cause dangerous bleeding or even death. Most aneurysms are in the aorta, the main artery that runs from the heart through the chest and abdomen.

There are two types of aortic aneurysm:

  • Thoracic aortic aneurysms ­ these occur in the part of the aorta running through the chest
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms ­ these occur in the part of the aorta running through the abdomen

Most aneurysms are found during tests done for other reasons. Some people are at high risk for aneurysms. It is important for them to get screening, because aneurysms can develop and become large before causing any symptoms. Screening is recommended for people between the ages of 65 and 75 if they have a family history, or if they are men who have smoked. Doctors use imaging tests to find aneurysms. Medicines and surgery are the two main treatments.

The aorta is the main artery that carries blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Blood flows out of the heart and into the aorta through the aortic valve. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully. This decreases blood flow from the heart.

An atrial septal defect is a hole in the septum separating the upper chambers of the heart. Typically this condition is detected in childhood. The hole can increase the pressure of the blood supply to the lungs causing damage to the lungs and lead to pulmonary hypertension. Other conditions can include heart failure, arrhythmias and stroke.

An arrhythmia is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of arrhythmia. The cause is a disorder in the heart’s electrical system.

Often, people who have AF may not even feel symptoms. But you may feel

  • Palpitations ­­ an abnormal rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or difficulty exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion

AF can lead to an increased risk of stroke. In many patients, it can also cause chest pain, heart attack, or heart failure.

Doctors diagnose AF using family and medical history, a physical exam, and a test called an electrocardiogram (EKG), which looks at the electrical waves your heart makes. Treatments include medicines and procedures to restore normal rhythm.

Atrial flutter (AFL) is a common abnormal heart rhythm, similar to atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm. Both conditions are types of supraventricular (above the ventricles) tachycardia (rapid heart beat). In AFL, the upper chambers (atria) of the heart beat too fast, which results in atrial muscle contractions that are faster than and out of sync with the lower chambers (ventricles).

Bradycardia is a condition where the heart beats too slowly. Many factors can affect your heart’s rhythm, from medications, to metabolic conditions, to the development of sinus nodal dysfunction. Treatment can involve implantation of a pacemaker in patients experiencing syncope or fatigue as a consequence of their bradycardia.

Many factors can affect your heart’s rhythm, such as having had a heart attack, smoking, congenital heart defects, and stress. Some substances or medicines may also cause arrhythmias.

Cardiomyopathy is the name for diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases enlarge your heart muscle or make it thicker and more rigid than normal. In rare cases, scar tissue replaces the muscle tissue.

Some people live long, healthy lives with cardiomyopathy. Some people don’t even realize they have it. In others, however, it can make the heart less able to pump blood through the body. This can cause serious complications, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart valve problems

Heart attacks, high blood pressure, infections, and other diseases can all cause cardiomyopathy. Some types of cardiomyopathy run in families. In many people, however, the cause is unknown. Treatment might involve medicines, surgery, other medical procedures, and lifestyle changes.

Carotid artery disease is a form of disease that affects the vessels leading to the head and brain (cerebrovascular disease). Like the heart, the brain’s cells need a constant supply of oxygen­ rich blood. This blood supply is delivered to the brain by the 2 large carotid arteries in the front of your neck and by 2 smaller vertebral arteries at the back of your neck. The right and left vertebral arteries come together at the base of the brain to form what is called the basilar artery. A stroke most often occurs when the carotid arteries become blocked and the brain does not get enough oxygen.

Having a pain in your chest can be scary. It does not always mean that you are having a heart attack. There can be many other causes, including:

  • Other heart problems, such as angina
  • Panic attacks
  • Digestive problems, such as heartburn or esophagus disorders
  • Sore muscles
  • Lung diseases, such as pneumonia, pleurisy, or pulmonary embolism
  • Costochondritis ­ an inflammation of joints in your chest

Some of these problems can be serious. Get immediate medical care if you have chest pain that does not go away, crushing pain or pressure in the chest, or chest pain along with nausea, sweating, dizziness or shortness of breath. Treatment depends on the cause of the pain.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) happens when there is a narrowing of the blood vessels outside of your heart. The cause of PAD is atherosclerosis. This happens when plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. Plaque is a substance made up of fat and cholesterol. It causes the arteries to narrow or become blocked. This can reduce or stop blood flow, usually to the legs. If severe enough, blocked blood flow can cause tissue death and can sometimes lead to amputation of the foot or leg.
The main risk factor for PAD is smoking. Other risk factors include older age and diseases like diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Many people who have PAD don’t have any symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may include:

  • Pain, numbness, achiness, or heaviness in the leg muscles. This happens when walking or climbing stairs.
  • Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet
  • Sores or wounds on the toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all
  • A pale or bluish color to the skin
  • A lower temperature in one leg than the other leg
  • Poor nail growth on the toes and decreased hair growth on the legs
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially among men who have diabetes

PAD can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack.

Doctors diagnose PAD with a physical exam and heart and imaging tests. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines, and sometimes surgery. Lifestyle changes include dietary changes, exercise, and efforts to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

Congenital heart disease (congenital heart defect) is an abnormality in your heart’s structure that you’re born with. Although congenital heart disease is often considered a childhood condition, advances in surgical treatment mean most babies who once died of congenital heart disease survive well into adulthood.

While medical advances have improved, many adults with congenital heart disease may not be getting proper follow-up care. If you had a congenital heart defect repaired as an infant, you likely still need care as an adult.

Find out if and when you should check with your doctor, if you’re likely to have complications, or if you’re at greater risk of other heart problems as an adult.

Symptoms or signs of congenital heart disease may not show up until later in life. They may recur years after you’ve had treatment for a heart defect. Some common congenital heart disease symptoms you may have as an adult include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • A bluish tint to the skin (cyanosis)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiring quickly upon exertion
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling of body tissue or organs (edema)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States in both men and women.

CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a blood clot suddenly cuts off the hearts’ blood supply, causing permanent heart damage.

Over time, CAD can also weaken the heart muscle and contribute to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure means the heart can’t pump blood well to the rest of the body. Arrhythmias are changes in the normal beating rhythm of the heart.

When you’re dizzy, you may feel lightheaded or lose your balance. If you feel that the room is spinning, you have vertigo.

A sudden drop in blood pressure or being dehydrated can make you dizzy. Many people feel lightheaded if they get up too quickly from sitting or lying down.

Dizziness usually gets better by itself or is easily treated. However, it can be a symptom of other disorders. Medicines may cause dizziness, or problems with your ear. Motion sickness can also make you dizzy. There are many other causes.

If you are dizzy often, you should see your health care provider to find the cause.

Edema means swelling caused by fluid in your body’s tissues. It usually occurs in the feet, ankles and legs, but it can involve your entire body.
Causes of edema include:

  • Eating too much salt
  • Sunburn
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver problems from cirrhosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Problems with lymph nodes, especially after mastectomy
  • Some medicines
  • Standing or walking a lot when the weather is warm

To keep swelling down, your health care provider may recommend keeping your legs raised when sitting, wearing support stockings, limiting how much salt you eat, or taking a medicine called a diuretic ­ also called a water pill.

An enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom of another condition.
The term “cardiomegaly” most commonly refers to an enlarged heart seen on a chest X­ray. Other tests are then needed to diagnose the condition causing your enlarged heart.

You may develop an enlarged heart temporarily because of a stress on your body, such as pregnancy, or because of a medical condition, such as the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems or abnormal heart rhythms.

An enlarged heart may be treatable by correcting the cause. Treatment for an enlarged heart can include medications, medical procedures or surgery. In some people, an enlarged heart causes no signs or symptoms. Others may have these signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Swelling (edema)

Each year over a million people in the U.S. have a heart attack. About half of them die. Many people have permanent heart damage or die because they don’t get help immediately. It’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and call 9­1­1 if someone is having them. Those symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort ­ pressure, squeezing, or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the upper body ­ arms, shoulder, neck, back
  • Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating

These symptoms can sometimes be different in women.

What exactly is a heart attack? Most heart attacks happen when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Often this leads to an irregular heartbeat ­called an arrhythmia ­that causes a severe decrease in the pumping function of the heart. A blockage that is not treated within a few hours causes the affected heart muscle to die.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart is not able to pump blood the way it should. It can affect one or both sides of the heart.

The weakening of the heart’s pumping ability causes:

  • Blood and fluid to back up into the lungs
  • The buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles and legs ­ called edema
  • Tiredness and shortness of breath

Common causes of heart failure are coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It is more common in people who are 65 years old or older, African Americans, people who are overweight, and people who have had a heart attack. Men have a higher rate of heart failure than women.

Your doctor will diagnose heart failure by doing a physical exam and heart tests.
Treatment includes treating the underlying cause of your heart failure, medicines, and heart transplantation if other treatments fail.

A heart murmur isn’t a disease. It’s an extra or unusual sound heard during the heartbeat. Thus, murmurs themselves don’t require treatment. However, if an underlying condition is causing a heart murmur, your doctor may recommend treatment for that condition.

Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.

You may:

  • Have an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat
  • Feel like your heart skipped or stopped beats

The heart’s rhythm may be normal or abnormal when you have palpitations.

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is called diastolic pressure.

Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers. The systolic which is the first number is the pressure during contraction of your heart muscle. The diastolic which is the second number is the pressure during relaxation of your heart muscle. A reading of:

  • 119/79 or lower is normal blood pressure
  • 140/90 or higher is high blood pressure
  • Between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is called prehypertension. Prehypertension means you may end up with high blood pressure, unless you take steps to prevent it.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure.

You can control high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise and the DASH diet and taking medicines, if needed.

Many people do not know their cholesterol is too high because there are usually no symptoms. That’s why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked by your doctor.

Talk with your healthcare provider about assessing your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol levels are an important factor in estimating your personal risk. Visit your healthcare provider to create an action plan that will help you make important lifestyle changes. Sometimes, medication is needed in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Hip pain may be caused by more than just problems in the bones or cartilage of your hip. Peripheral vascular disease affecting the blood supply to the hip and buttocks can often be the culprit. Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms through various testing to determine if this is the cause.

Left ventricular hypertrophy is enlargement and thickening (hypertrophy) of the walls of your heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle).

Left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in response to some factor — such as high blood pressure or a heart condition — that causes the left ventricle to work harder. As the workload increases, the muscle tissue in the chamber wall thickens, and sometimes the size of the chamber itself also increases. The enlarged heart muscle loses elasticity and eventually may fail to pump with as much force as needed.

Left ventricular hypertrophy is more common in people who have uncontrolled high blood pressure. But no matter what your blood pressure is, developing left ventricular hypertrophy puts you at higher risk for a heart attack and stroke. Treating high blood pressure can help ease your symptoms and may reverse left ventricular hypertrophy.

Left ventricular hypertrophy usually develops gradually. You may experience no signs or symptoms, especially during the early stages of the condition.
As left ventricular hypertrophy progresses, you may experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain, often after exercising
  • Sensation of rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats (palpitations)
  • Dizziness or fainting

Leg pain can be due to a muscle cramp (also called a charley horse). Common causes of cramps include:

  • Dehydration or low amounts of potassium, sodium, calcium, or magnesium in the blood
  • Medicines (such as diuretics and statins)
  • Muscle fatigue or strain from overuse, too much exercise, or holding a muscle in the same position for a long time

An injury can also cause leg pain from:

  • A torn or overstretched muscle (strain)
  • Hairline crack in the bone (stress fracture)
  • Inflamed tendon (tendinitis)
  • Shin splints (pain in the front of the leg from overuse)

Other common causes of leg pain include:

  • Atherosclerosis that blocks blood flow in the arteries (this type of pain,called claudication, is generally felt when exercising or walking and is relieved by rest)
  • Blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) from long­term bed rest
  • Infection of the bone (osteomyelitis) or skin and soft tissue (cellulitis)
  • Inflammation of the leg joints caused by arthritis or gout
  • Nerve damage common to people with diabetes, smokers, and alcoholics
  • Varicose veins

Less common causes include:

  • Cancerous bone tumors (osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma)
  • Legg­Calve­Perthes disease: Poor blood flow to the hip that may stop or slow the normal growth of the leg
  • Noncancerous (benign) tumors or cysts of the femur or tibia (osteoid osteoma)
  • Sciatic nerve pain (radiating pain down the leg) caused by a slipped disk in the back
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis: Most often seen in boys and overweight children between ages 11 and 15

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when one of your heart’s valves doesn’t work properly. The flaps of the valve are “floppy” and don’t close tightly. Most people who have the condition are born with it. It also tends to run in families.

Most of the time, MVP doesn’t cause any problems. Rarely, blood can leak the wrong way through the floppy valve. This can cause:

  • Palpitations (feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or too fast)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue, dizziness, or anxiety
  • Migraine headaches
  • Chest discomfort

Most people who have mitral valve prolapse (MVP) don’t need treatment because they don’t have symptoms and complications. If you need treatment for MVP, medicines can help relieve symptoms or prevent complications. Very few people will need surgery to repair or replace the mitral valve.

MVP puts you at risk for infective endocarditis, a kind of heart infection. To prevent it, doctors used to prescribe antibiotics before dental work or certain surgeries. Now, only people at high risk of endocarditis need the antibiotics.

Each year over a million people in the U.S. have a heart attack. About half of them die. Many people have permanent heart damage or die because they don’t get help immediately. It’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and call 9­1­1 if someone is having them. Those symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort ­ pressure, squeezing, or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the upper body ­ arms, shoulder, neck, back
  • Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating

These symptoms can sometimes be different in women.
What exactly is a heart attack? Most heart attacks happen when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Often this leads to an irregular heartbeat ­ called an arrhythmia ­ that causes a severe decrease in the pumping function of the heart. A blockage that is not treated within a few hours causes the affected heart muscle to die.

You’ve probably heard that high blood pressure is a problem. Sometimes blood pressure that is too low can also cause problems.

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure. Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers. Usually they’re written one above or before the other, such as 120/80. If your blood pressure reading is 90/60 or lower, you have low blood pressure.

Some people have low blood pressure all the time. They have no symptoms and their low readings are normal for them. In other people, blood pressure drops below normal because of a medical condition or certain medicines. Some people may have symptoms of low blood pressure when standing up too quickly. Low blood pressure is a problem only if it causes dizziness, fainting or in extreme cases, shock.

Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.

You may:

  • Have an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat
  • Feel like your heart skipped or stopped beats

The heart’s rhythm may be normal or abnormal when you have palpitations.

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) involves damage to or blockage in the blood vessels distant from your heart—the peripheral arteries and veins. Your peripheral arteries and veins carry blood to and from your arm and leg muscles and the organs in and below your stomach area. PVD may also affect the arteries leading to your head (see Carotid Artery Disease). When PVD affects only the arteries and not the veins, it is called peripheral arterial disease (PAD).  To read more about PAD click here.

The main forms that PVD may take include blood clots (for example, deep vein thrombosis or DVT), swelling (inflammation), or narrowing and blockage of the blood vessels.

A foramen ovale is a hole in the septum of the upper chambers of the heart. It normally exists in babies who are still in the womb and should close at birth. If it dose not close it is called a patent foramen ovale. PFO’s are common. One in four individuals has some degree of PFO. Some individuals with a PFO can experience:

  • Migranes
  • Strokes
  • TIAs

A contrast echo is typically ordered to diagnose the condition if suspected. Treatment may range from monitoring, to medications, to surgical correction.

Premature ventricular contractions are extra, abnormal heartbeats that begin in one of your heart’s two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). These extra beats disrupt your regular heart rhythm, sometimes causing you to feel a flip­flop or skipped beat in your chest. Premature ventricular contractions are very common — they occur in most people at some point.

Premature ventricular contractions are also called:

  • Premature ventricular complexes
  • PVCs
  • Ventricular premature beats
  • Extrasystoles

If you have occasional premature ventricular contractions, but you’re an otherwise healthy person, there’s generally no reason for concern, and no treatment is needed. If you have frequent premature ventricular contractions or underlying heart disease, you may need treatment to help you feel better and treat underlying heart problems.

Premature ventricular contractions often cause no symptoms. But you may feel an odd sensation in your chest, such as:

  • Flip­flops
  • Fluttering
  • Pounding or jumping
  • Skipped beats or missed beats
  • Increased awareness of your heartbeat

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs. It is a serious condition. If you have it, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your lungs become hard and narrow. Your heart has to work harder to pump the blood through. Over time, your heart weakens and cannot do its job and you can develop heart failure.