When plaque (fatty deposits) builds up on the inside of your heart's arteries, it reduces the amount of blood and oxygen your heart receives.
As a result, your heart muscle may become damaged. Your heart becomes weak and less blood gets pumped to the rest of your body.
Call 911 right away if you have:
When an artery to the heart becomes completely blocked, the part of the heart muscle that receives blood from that artery dies.
This is called a heart attack (myocardial infarction). It can feel like a crushing type of pain and usually lasts longer than angina (general chest pain).
A heart attack leaves your heart permanently damaged or scarred. This means the undamaged part of your heart has to work harder.
When the amount of pressure inside your arteries is high, your heart has to pump with more force to push the blood through the blood vessels. If high blood pressure (hypertension) is not treated, your heart muscle becomes larger and its pumping ability weakens.
High blood pressure usually has no signs. Your blood pressure is checked with two numbers. The top (systolic) shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom (diastolic) shows the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests.
You have high blood pressure if the top number is 140 or higher and the bottom number is 90 or higher.
When a valve is diseased, blood can flow in the wrong direction. This causes blood to pool.
When one or more of your heart valves no longer opens or closes right, blood can flow in the wrong direction. This is called regurgitation.
If the opening of the valve is narrow or smaller than usual, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through it. This is called valve stenosis. Your heart becomes thickened or enlarged. It will lose the ability to pump well.
When your heart becomes weak and loses its basic ability to pump with force, you will have heart failure symptoms. "Cardiomyopathy" is a term for a weak heart muscle. "Idiopathic" means without a known cause.
You may develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. This condition is called preeclampsia. If you had high blood pressure before your pregnancy, the condition may become worse.
Part of your heart may not have developed correctly. This is known as congenital heart disease.
Your valves, heart muscle or both may be damaged by a viral or bacterial infection.
Both of these diseases put extra strain on your heart. The extra work can cause your heart muscle to weaken.
These can damage the heart muscle.
Being more than 100 pounds overweight puts more strain on your heart.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, fifth edition, 1-931876-31-2
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts