Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

Healthy Living

April 15, 2017

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a broad term that healthcare professionals use as a general description of someone whose heart isn’t functioning as it should be, or “normally”.

Congenital Heart Disease

When you’re born with heart disease the medical term for this is “congenital” heart disease, it means that you were born with an abnormality of the heart that began before you were born. There are a vast number of heart malformations that are termed congenital and are apparent at birth, but there’s also congenital heart defects that aren’t apparent at birth and may not be discovered until a problem or symptoms occur later in your life.

Acquired Heart Disease

When you develop heart disease later in your life or in adulthood it’s called “acquired” heart disease, this is the type of heart disease that most people have and is far more common in adults than in children.

Two of the most common causes of acquired heart disease in children are rheumatic fever and Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki disease (KD) typically strikes children 5 years of age and under, older children and teens can get Kawasaki disease, but it is much rarer; 80 percent of children who get Kawasaki disease are under the age of 5.

What is Kawasaki Disease (KD)?

Though the disease still isn’t fully understood, we do know that KD isn’t contagious and occurs in boys more often than girls. Kawasaki disease is primarily diagnosed in the winter months and early spring and presents itself with very distinct symptoms .

Currently, there is no known cause of KD, and there’s no specific test for it. Diagnosis is made by a doctor’s physical exam of the child/patient and observation of the symptoms being presented at the time of examination.

Approximately 25% percent of children who don’t receive treatment for KD will develop acquired heart disease. It’s estimated that 4,200 children of all ethnicities in the United States are diagnosed with Kawasaki disease each year, though it should be mentioned that it’s more common in children of Asian and Pacific Island heritage.

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is the second most common cause of acquired heart disease in children and teens age 5 – 15. The fever’s a side effect of a streptococcal infection (strep throat). Unlike Kawasaki disease which has much less risks for serious side effects, rheumatic fever is a serious illness that can cause permanent heart damage, stroke and even death when left untreated. Like Kawasaki disease, rheumatic fever has very distinctive symptoms and is easily diagnosed by a physician. Diagnosis’s made by means of a physical exam, EKG (electrocardiogram) as well as an echocardiogram.

Signs And Symptoms Of Heart Disease

Heart disease is an equal opportunity illness, anyone can develop it, and that includes children. Heart disease occurs when either through heredity, other diseases (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) bad eating habits, smoking, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and/or not getting enough sleep or exercise. One or all of the above can cause your arteries to begin to build up a substance called plaque. Plaque build-up causes your arteries to narrow over time, reducing the amount of blow flow to your heart muscle.

According to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics Reports for 2009, diseases of the heart were the leading cause (no. 1) of death for U.S. residents. Part of the statistical information gathered is where the deaths occur. One of the conclusions that were made by the CDC based on the Vital Statistics report was that Americans aren’t familiar enough with the symptoms of a heart attack, or don’t recognize the significance of the time factor. You need to CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY if you suspect you or a loved one is having a heart attack. The fact that so many of the deaths occurred just outside of the hospital entrance is indicative that people aren’t seeking medical assistance soon enough to survive the heart attack.

These are the symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest. The pain may be located in the center or left side of your chest and may be a constant pain or tightness that lasts for a few minutes or comes and goes. The pain associated with a heart attack has been described as a feeling of one or all of the following; sharp pain, tightness in the chest, feeling of uncomfortable pressure or fullness, or a squeezing sensation.
  • Pain or strange discomforting sensations include; pain in one or both arms, your back, jaw, neck, or your stomach.
  • Shortness of breath which may occur before any feelings of pain or happen at the same time you experience chest pain.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.
  • Feeling nauseous.
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.

The following is provided by the CDC:

For More Information

For more information on heart disease visit our Web site at and the Web sites of the following CDC partners: