The heart’s pumping action, or “heartbeat,” is directed by a complicated electrical system. Problems with the regular heartbeat, such as abnormally fast or slow rhythms, can be caused by a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or aging, but may happen for other reasons as well. Heart rhythm problems can cause the feeling that the heart is “racing,” (palpitations), weakness, passing out (syncope), and sometimes death.
Blockages in the coronary arteries can also cause major problems in the heart because they slow or stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle. If the heart does not get enough blood, pain (often called angina) or muscle death from a heart attack (myocardial infarction) can result.
Although people can do a great deal to protect their hearts by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and controlling their cholesterol and blood pressure, some people are born with a tendency to have heart disease or other illnesses that may affect the heart.