Heart Conditions

As Western New York’s leading provider of cardiac care, we treat every kind of heart condition. Below are brief descriptions of the most common, in alphabetical order. Each includes a link to more information. About 75% of all heart patients have one of these conditions.

Adult Congenital Heart Disease

These include a wide range of malformations that affect the structure of the heart and major vessels. Congenital heart defects are present at birth because of the way the heart forms during the fetal stage. Genetic and environmental influences can affect the heart as it develops and cause a defect. Some medications, diabetes, and alcohol or illicit drug use during pregnancy can increase the risk of a congenital heart defect. Learn more about adult congenital heart disease.

Angina Pectoris (Angina)

Pain or pressure in the chest, back, arm or jaw indicates that the heart muscle isn’t receiving enough oxygen. Angina isn’t a heart attack, but it does mean that you have an increased risk of heart attack. Learn more about angina pectoris.

Arrhythmia (Dysrhythmia)

An abnormal (too fast, too slow, or irregular) heartbeat rhythm may be unimportant—or indicate a serious problem. There are many types of arrhythmias with a variety of causes, detection methods, and treatments. Learn more about arrhythmias.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a type of arrhythmia in which the two small upper chambers of the heart, the atria, quiver instead of beating effectively. Symptoms vary from minor to disturbing, but AF can lead to a stroke. Learn more about atrial fibrillation.

Coronary Artery Disease

This is a general term for a condition that blocks the coronary arteries, reducing blood flow through them to the heart muscle. It can take several forms, including silent ischemia (reduced blood flow to the heart that causes very little pain or symptoms), angina and heart attack. Learn more about coronary artery disease.

Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of coronary artery disease. This condition is characterized by thickening and hardening of the arteries, often caused by deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances on the arteries’ inner lining. These deposits, called plaque, make an artery narrower, so less blood can flow through. Lack of blood flow to the heart can cause a heart attack; lack of blood flow to the brain can cause a stroke. Learn more about atherosclerosis.

High Cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) means you have excessive cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a fat consisting of several components. Although too much cholesterol in the blood rarely causes symptoms by itself, it can clog the arteries to your heart, which increases your risk of serious heart disease and heart attack. (It can also clog the arteries to the brain, increasing the risk of stroke.) Learn more about hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).


With this condition the heart rate is too slow. A slow heart rate may cause fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting spells. Bradycardia can be easily corrected by implanting an electronic pacemaker to regulate the heart rhythm. Learn more about bradycardia.


This disease damages the heart muscle, weakening its ability to pump blood and sometimes causing arrhythmias. There are various types of cardiomyopathy with various causes, including viral infections. Some forms strike younger people. Learn more about cardiomyopathy

Congestive Heart Failure

CHF means the heart doesn’t pump as well as it should, causing the patient to retain fluids, often leading to swollen legs and ankles and congestion in the lungs. It’s usually caused by a gradual weakening of the heart brought on by various conditions, such as clogged arteries or high blood pressure. Learn more about congestive heart failure

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

When blood flow to part of the heart (the myocardium) is reduced or stops, it causes that part to be damaged or die. The damage is often reversible if the stoppage is brief, and the heart eventually receives the blood, oxygen, and nutrients it needs. A heart attack is sometimes called a coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusion. Learn more about heart attack (myocardial infarction)

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

This is not a heart disease in the conventional sense — however it strongly increases the risk of serious heart disease and stroke. It occurs when the pressure of blood flowing in the large arteries is too high. For adults, “too high” is generally defined as equal to or greater than 140 over 90 (140 mm Hg systolic pressure and 90 mm Hg diastolic pressure). Learn more about high blood pressure (hypertension)

Valvular Heart Disease

This includes any dysfunction or defect of one or more of the heart’s four valves. In a normally functioning heart, the valves act as gates that open and close to keep blood flowing in one direction, at the right time. There are a number of different types of valvular heart disease including valvular stenosis, valvular regurgitation, mitral valve prolapse, heart valve procedures, minimally invasive heart valve surgery, and artificial heart valve.

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)

While this is not considered a “heart condition” it results from cardiac arrest, which means the heart has suddenly stopped beating. Immediate treatment is absolutely necessary.

SCD is now the leading cause of death in industrialized nations. About 250,000 Americans (one per minute) die from SCD each year.

SCD is not the same thing as a heart attack. A heart attack means the heart is being deprived of oxygen, but is still beating. If it continues long enough without appropriate intervention, the heart attack will become cardiac arrest.

More information on sudden cardiac death

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