Many different disease processes can affect the heart, either in isolation or as part of a more generalised process. Heart conditions can be congenital, meaning that they are present from birth, or acquired, developing later in life as a consequence of other factors.
Many heart problems are caused by poor lifestyle, such as being overweight, smoking, and not taking enough exercise; a poor lifestyle also predisposes to diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn markedly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Abnormalities of the heart may affect one aspect of the heart in particular, such as a valve, or may have the potential to alter several aspects of heart function, such as a large heart attack causing considerable scarring, leading to heart failure and changes in the heart rhythm. Symptoms that may arise from heart problems include chest discomfort, breathlessness, fatigue, fluid retention, palpitations, dizzy spells, and blackouts.
Earlier in the disease process no symptoms will be evident; this is where screening can play a major role in identifying high risk individuals and introducing lifestyle modifications and, if appropriate, medication to reduce their risk of heart problems in later life.