As heart disease progresses, it can cause many potentially fatal complications.
When the coronary arteries narrow so much as to cut off blood supply to the heart, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the result. Deprived of oxygen, the heart cells begin to die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and severe chest pain that may radiate to the back, jaw, or left arm.
When the heart is not 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, cutting off blood flow. Stroke symptoms include numbness on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking, and loss of balance or coordination.
A pulmonary embolism is just like a stroke, except that the blocked blood vessel serves the lungs instead of the brain. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain on breathing, and bluish skin.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, usually because of an electrical disturbance in the heart. Arrhythmias caused by heart disease can lead to cardiac arrest, which will lead to death if not treated immediately.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Just as the coronary arteries can narrow in coronary artery disease, the same narrowing can happen in the arteries that serve the arms and legs. The main symptom of PAD is severe leg pain when walking.