What Is a Heart Blockage?

What Is a Heart Blockage?

A heart blockage is a heart disease characterized by narrowing of the coronary arteries and is usually caused by a condition known as atherosclerosis. This condition is medically referred to as coronary heart disease. It is the common heart disease in the United States with more than 13 million people affected, as stated by WebMD.

The blockage is usually caused by the accumulation of plaque, which makes the arteries firm and narrow preventing blood circulation to the heart. In the long run, the heart becomes undernourished due to lack of oxygen and other essential nutrients. The plaque usually starts depositing on the walls of the arteries while a patient is at a younger age. In time, it builds up thus elevating the risk of suffering from heart attack and heart disease. After the blockage occurs, new blood vessels usually erupt, but may not have the capability to supply enough oxygen to the heart.

The common symptom of a heart blockage is chest pain, or angina, as stated by Cleveland Clinic. It is usually experienced in the chest, but can also occur in the back, neck, left shoulder, jaw and the arms. Other symptoms include sweating, shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, extreme fatigue, palpitations, nausea and dizziness.

Heart blocks occur in several varieties, called degrees. Some, like first degree blocks, produce mild and even unnoticeable symptoms while third-degree blocks may completely prevent passage of electrical signals, causing noticeable symptoms. Regardless of block type, some risk factors increase the probability of developing a heart block, including valve abnormalities, history of heart attacks, certain medications, Lyme disease and older age.

In addition to having different names, the different heart block stages produce varying symptoms, and may derive from different causes. In a first-degree heart block, all electrical signals originating in the upper chamber eventually reach the lower chambers, but at a slower pace than normal. This heart block affects people of all ages, including athletes. It produces minimal symptoms, if any at all, and triggers from use of certain medicines and exposure to environmental toxins. According to Heart Rhythm Society, Type II heart blocks result when some electrical signals generated in the upper chambers never reach the lower chambers. This results in delayed or absent heartbeats, potentially causing serious harm. Some people with Type II heart blocks receive pacemakers. Type III heart blocks create more complete blockages, causing chronic fatigue and light-headedness. Lastly, bundle branch blocks prevent travel of electrical signals through heart tissues.