According to The Mayo Clinic (one of the most respected medical centers in the world) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120
Heart disease is a broad term used to describe a range of diseases that affect your heart, and in some cases, your blood vessels. The various diseases that fall under the umbrella of heart disease include diseases of your blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects).
The term "heart disease" is often used interchangeably with "cardiovascular disease" — a term that generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as infections and conditions that affect your heart's muscle, valves or beating rhythm also are considered forms of heart disease.
Heart disease is the No. 1 worldwide killer of men and women, including in the United States. For example, heart disease is responsible for 40 percent of all the deaths in the United States, more than all forms of cancer combined. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices and diet and exercise.
Think you're having a heart attack
Here's what the American Heart Association Web site says:
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
* Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
* Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
* Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
* Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don't wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room."
I find that the biggest error (and can be a fatal error) is not to call 911. Some wait for family members to take them to the hospital and have either died waiting for the family member to arrive or in the family member's car going to the hospital. Thus, most of us feel the single most important thing you can do is to call 911.
Calling friends or neighbors after calling 911, sitting up, taking an aspirin are all important things to do, but if you haven't called 911 and you collapse, help just won't be on the way soon enough.
Heart disease symptoms vary, depending on what type of heart disease you have.
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is caused by narrowed, blocked or stiffened blood vessels that make it so your heart, brain or other parts of your body don't receive enough blood. Cardiovascular disease symptoms can include:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms, if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
You might not be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until your condition worsens to the point that you have a heart attack, chest pain (angina), stroke, heart failure or sudden cardiac death. It's important to watch for cardiovascular symptoms and discuss any concerns with your doctor. Cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular visits to your doctor.
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency medical care if you have these heart disease symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Heart disease is easier to treat when it's detected early, so talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your heart health. If you don't have heart disease, but are concerned about developing heart disease, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. This is especially true if you have a family history of heart disease.
If you think you may have heart disease based on new signs or symptoms you've been having, make an appointment to see your doctor.