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A List of the Top 10 Heart Diseases

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/30/2010

This list of heart diseases will explain the causes and symptoms of some of the most common heart diseases. Learning about these diseases will help you recognize when to seek medical advice for your symptoms.

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    Congestive Heart Failure

    Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood as well as it should. This causes blood to back up into the lung tissue and other body cavities. Causes of congestive heart failure include prolonged hypertension, heart muscle disease, congenital heart defects, history of heart attack or stroke, narrowing of the arteries and infection of the heart muscle. Watch for symptoms such as fatigue, swelling of the legs and ankles, sleep difficulties, nausea and increased urination.

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    Hypertension

    Hypertension refers to a consistently elevated blood pressure of above 120/80 mm/Hg. The top number, called the systolic, refers to the force of the blood in the arteries as the heart contracts. The bottom number, called the diastolic, refers to the force of the blood in the arteries as the heart rests. Blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer because it usually produces no symptoms. In severe cases, hypertension causes headaches and vision changes. This condition increases the risk for stroke, heart attack, diabetes and kidney disease, so proper management of hypertension is important.

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    Coronary Artery Disease

    No list of heart diseases would be complete without the mention of coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease results from a build-up of plaque in the arteries. Since the arteries supply oxygen and other nutrients to the organs, this disease increases the risk of serious complications. Some of the risk factors for coronary artery disease are high triglycerides, high cholesterol, smoking, hypertension and elevated blood glucose levels. Overweight and obese people have an increased risk of this disease. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute explains that angina is the most common symptom of this disease. Angina is a type of pain that occurs when the heart isn’t getting enough oxygenated blood. Coronary artery disease also causes shortness of breath.

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    Rheumatic Heart Disease

    Some cases of rheumatic fever damage the heart valves, resulting in rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic fever starts with a case of strep throat and progresses until it causes inflammation and pain in the joints and skin. The American Heart Association reports that this condition most commonly occurs in children ages 5 to 15. Once rheumatic heart disease develops, it is often a life-long condition. Symptoms of rheumatic heart disease include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and painful joints.

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    Arteriosclerosis

    Doctors refer to a thickening of the arteries as arteriosclerosis. This means that the arteries have lost their elasticity, which increases the risk of heart complications. Many professionals use the term arteriosclerosis interchangeably with the term atherosclerosis, another type of heart condition.

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    Atherosclerosis

    Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis. This condition occurs when cholesterol levels remain elevated over a long period of time. This cholesterol forms a plaque that causes the artery to thicken. The thickened artery makes it more difficult for blood to pass through the artery, which increases the risk for stroke or heart attack.

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    Irregular Heartbeat

    Doctors refer to an irregular heartbeat as an arrhythmia. This condition can cause rapid heartbeat, loss of consciousness and lightheadedness. Patients with known arrhythmias should receive regular monitoring in the forum of routine pulse checks and electrocardiograms. Some forms of arrhythmia, such as atrioventricular block, actually cause a slow heartbeat. If you experience a slower than faster heartbeat than normal, consult a physician for evaluation and treatment.

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    Cardiomyopathy

    Doctors classify cardiomyopathy as dilated or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The dilated form is the most common heart muscle disease. In this condition, the left ventricle dilates as the heart muscle gets weaker. This reduces the amount of blood the hearty can pump. This condition occurs due to coronary artery blockage, Lyme disease infection and chemicals. The hypertrophic form of the disease occurs when the wall of tissue separating the ventricles weakens. This results in a high ejection fraction speed. Another effect of this condition is mitral valve regurgitation. Causes of this condition include family history, aortic stenosis and uncontrolled hypertension.

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    Aortic Stenosis

    Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aorta, the large artery that delivers blood from the left ventricle to some of the smaller arteries. This condition occurs as a result of a valve obstruction or defect of the aorta., Symptoms of this condition include breathlessness, chest discomfort and loss of consciousness. In childhood, aortic stenosis is usually the result of a congenital condition. In old age, it usually occurs as the result of a hardening of the aortic valves.

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    Marfan Syndrome

    Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that has effects on the heart. The severity of this disease varies from one patient to the next. Signs and symptoms of Marfan syndrome include eye problems and abnormally long legs, fingers, arms and toes. The heart problems caused by Marfan syndrome include aortic regurgitation, aortic aneurysm, mitral regurgitation and aortic dissection.