Long Term Complications of Heart Disease

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 3, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on September 3, 2014

Heart Disease Complications

Heart disease affects the blood vessels and the heart. When a person learns they have heart disease, it’s important for them to make lifestyle changes to slow the progression of the disease. Heart disease can cause many potentially fatal complications, if left untreated.

Complications

Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot adequately pump blood throughout the body. This can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, and the buildup of fluid in the body, causing swelling.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the coronary arteries narrow so much that they cut off blood supply to the heart. The heart cells begin to die as they are deprived of oxygen. Symptoms include shortness of breath and severe chest pain that may radiate to the back, jaw, or left arm.

Stroke

When the heart isn’t working effectively, blood clots are more likely to form in the blood vessels. A stroke occurs when one of these clots lodges in a blood vessel in the brain and cuts off blood flow. Stroke symptoms include:

  • numbness on one side of the body
  • confusion
  • trouble speaking
  • loss of balance or coordination

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is similar to a stroke, but the blocked blood vessel is in the lungs instead of the brain. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain on breathing, and bluish skin.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It’s usually caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart. Arrhythmias caused by heart disease can lead to cardiac arrest. This will lead to death if not treated immediately.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

The same narrowing that occurs in coronary artery disease can happen in the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. The main symptom of PAD is severe leg pain when walking.

Long-term Outlook and Potential Complications

The long-term outlook for heart disease patients depends upon many factors. These include: the type of underlying heart disease, the person’s reaction to the medications, and the extent and severity of impairment.

Heart disease is considered a chronic condition, and there can be complications following periods of medication-induced improvement. However, the long-term outlook for people with heart disease is better each year because of the development of new medications and treatment options. 

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