Heart Disease: Recognize the Symptoms, Causes, and How to Prevent It

Heart disease is still the main cause of death throughout the world, including in Indonesia. This disease can cause sudden death without any obvious symptoms beforehand. Therefore, people need to pay more attention to symptoms related to heart and blood vessel problems.

Getting to Know Heart Disease

Heart disease is a medical problem in the form of damage or disruption to the heart or blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. This disease is also associated with other medical problems, especially those that affect blood vessel function. According to the 2018 Basic Health Research, heart and blood vessel disease is the number one cause of death in Indonesia.

There are a number of types of heart disease that have different characteristics according to the part of the heart organ affected and the risks they pose. For example:

  • Coronary heart disease: this disease occurs due to problems with the coronary arteries or heart blood vessels which narrow or harden so that the blood supply to the heart is hampered.
  • Arrhythmia: a disturbance in the rhythm of the heartbeat, which can be too fast, too slow, or irregular.
  • Congenital heart disease: abnormalities in the structure of the heart that occur at birth or in the womb.
  • Heart failure: this condition occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, thereby affecting the function of other body organs that need blood.
  • Peripheral heart disease: this condition occurs when the blood vessels from the heart that supply blood to the feet and hands are blocked.
  • Rheumatic heart disease: this disease is damage to heart tissue triggered by bacterial infection, causing problems with the heart valves.
  • Heart valve disease: impaired function of the heart valves which are narrowed or weak/unable to close completely.
  • Cardiomyopathy: abnormalities in the heart muscle that occur due to various causes, such as genetic factors, infection, or consumption of certain medications.

When someone experiences heart disease, their quality of life can decrease and their physical activity is more limited. Not infrequently, long-term medication and care is needed to restore the condition.


Heart disease can cause various symptoms, depending on the type and severity. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Feelings of discomfort or pain in the chest such as burning, pressure, or squeezing which can spread to the jaw, arms, and back
  • Shortness of breath both when doing activities and resting
  • Heart pounding
  • Feel tired easily
  • Dizziness, especially when standing up suddenly or moving quickly
  • Swollen foot
  • There is a whirring or rumbling sound in the heart (murmur)
  • Decreased appetite


There are various causes of heart disease, depending on the condition experienced by the patient. There are risk factors that can be changed, some that cannot. The following include:

1. Modifiable risks

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Diabetes or pre-diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Eating a lot of unhealthy food
  • Stress

2. Irreversible risks

  • Increasing age
  • Gender, men are more susceptible than women, but the risk is in women
    increases after entering menopause
  • Have ever had a heart attack or stroke
  • Have a family history of heart disease
  • Have a family history of high cholesterol levels
  • There is a history of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy

How Doctors Diagnose Heart Disease

Doctors need to carry out a series of examinations and medical tests to diagnose heart disease. Here are some ways:

  • Physical examination and medical history: the doctor will physically examine the patient to look for signs of heart disease, for example abnormal heartbeats, swelling of the legs, or whirring sounds from the heart.
  • Electrocardiogram to record the heart’s electrical activity to check the rhythm of the heartbeat.
  • An echocardiogram is a test using sound waves to get a detailed picture of the structure and function of the heart.
  • A cardiac stress test is to see how well the heart functions when the intensity of its work increases, for example by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle.
  • Coronary angiography with X-rays and contrast fluid to check the condition of the coronary arteries.
  • Blood tests to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels and detect heart enzymes which are released when the heart is damaged.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography scan (CT scan)

How to Treat Heart Disease

How to deal with heart disease varies according to the type and condition experienced by the patient. Common methods include:

  • Consumption of medicines, for example blood pressure lowering drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, heart rate regulators and blood thinners
  • Lifestyle changes by adopting a balanced nutritional diet, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and managing stress better
  • Medical procedures such as stent installation to treat blocked coronary arteries, angioplasty to widen blood vessels, and open surgery or heart surgery.
  • Cardiovascular recovery, for example through physiotherapy programs, diet and cardiac exercise.


Heart disease can progress and result in life-threatening complications, such as:

  • Heart attack: cessation of heart function due to sudden stopping of blood flow to the heart due to blocked blood vessels.
  • Stroke: this complication occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, which can cause permanent brain damage.
  • Pulmonary embolism: the release of a blood clot or fat clump that enters the lungs and can cause shortness of breath and even death.
  • Sudden cardiac death: sudden death in people at high risk of heart disease.


The main way to prevent heart disease is to practice a healthy and active lifestyle. Make sure to consume healthy food and drinks and adopt a balanced nutritional diet. Apart from that, exercise regularly and move more in your daily activities, especially those who are often busy working in front of a computer screen. If you have a smoking habit, you should reduce it or stop it altogether.

It is also important to understand the risk factors for each. If there is a history of heart disease in the family, this means that more attention and effort is needed to prevent it. Likewise, if you are over 40 years of age, which means the risk of experiencing heart disease increases. Consult your doctor about whether you need to carry out regular check-ups to monitor your overall health condition.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Everyone can get heart disease, especially if they don’t practice a healthy lifestyle. If you suspect you have symptoms of heart problems, immediately get yourself checked to get a diagnosis and prevent more serious complications.

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