Heart Disease: Overview

Heart Disease, also called Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), refers to any condition of the heart or its major blood vessels. There are literally hundreds of possible heart disorders. One of the best known major types is Coronary Heart Disease is a particular type of heart disease, related to conditions such as atherosclerosis/arteriosclerosis of the major blood vessels. Other types of heart disease include congestive heart failure (CHF), cardiomyopathy, and many other types.

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Back to: « Heart Disease

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The term "heart disease" refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.

Source: CDC1

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What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a term used to describe several problems that may affect your heart. The most common type of problem happens when a blood vessel that carries blood to the heart becomes hard and narrow. This may keep the heart from getting all the blood it needs. Other problems may affect how well the heart pumps. If you have heart disease, you may suffer from a heart attack, heart failure, sudden cardiac death, angina (chest pain), or abnormal heart rhythm. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.3

How is heart disease linked to overweight?

People who are overweight or obese often have health problems that may increase the risk for heart disease. These health problems include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. In addition, excess weight may cause changes to your heart that make it work harder to send blood to all the cells in your body.

How can weight loss help?

Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight may lower your chances of developing heart disease. If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds. Weight loss may improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood flow.

Source: NIDDK (NIH)2

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What is Heart Disease?

When you hear the term “heart disease,” you may think, “That’s a man’s disease” or “Not my problem.” But here is The Heart Truth®: one in four women in the United States dies of heart disease, while one in 30 dies of breast cancer. If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem. Learn more about heart disease.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

An astonishing 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Having one or more risk factors dramatically increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease because risk factors tend to worsen each other’s effects. In fact, according to research compiled by the NHLBI, having just one risk factor doubles your chance of developing heart disease.

Whatever a woman’s age, she needs to take action to protect her heart health. Heart disease can begin early, even in the teen years, and women in their 20s and 30s need to take action to reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Yet among U.S. women ages 18 and older, 17 percent are current smokers. Among women ages 20 and older, 64 are overweight (BMI of 25 or greater), 27 percent have hypertension, and 45 percent have high cholesterol. African American and Hispanic women, in particular, have higher rates of some risk factors for heart disease and are disproportionately affected by the disease compared to white women. More than 80 percent of midlife African American women are overweight or obese, 53 percent have hypertension, and 11 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes. Eighty percent of Hispanic women ages 20 and older are overweight or obese, and 15 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes.

To learn more, read about heart disease risk factors or watch The Heart Truth Heart Attack Risk Factors video, which address the two types of risk factors associated with heart attacks.

How Do I Find Out if I Am at Risk for Heart Disease?

Some women believe that doing just one healthy thing will take care of all their heart disease risk. For example, they may think that if they walk or swim regularly, they can still smoke and stay fairly healthy. This is wrong. To protect your heart, it is vital to make changes that address each risk factor you have. Find out how to lower heart disease risk.

A damaged heart can damage your life by interfering with enjoyable activities and even your ability to do simple things, such as taking a walk or climbing steps. Heart disease cannot be “cured.” It is a lifelong condition—once you get it, you’ll always have it.

Fortunately, it’s a problem you can do something about. Find out your risk for heart disease and take steps to prevent and control it. Talk to your doctor to get more answers. Start taking action today to protect your heart. Heart disease is preventable—by making healthy lifestyle changes and taking steps to manage risk factors, women can reduce their risk for heart disease. Visit The Heart Truth tools and resources.

Source: NHLBI (NIH)3

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. Almost 700,000 Americans die of heart disease each year.*

While these may be due in part to poor eating habits and/or lack of excercise, environmental chemicals also play a role. While most chemicals that enter the body are broken down into harmless substances by the liver, some are converted into particles called free radicals that can react with proteins in the blood to form fatty deposits called plaques, which can clog blood vessels. A blockage can cut off the flow of blood to the heart, causing a heart attack.

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: NIEHS (NIH)4

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If you're like most people, you think that heart disease is a problem for others. But heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It's the major reason people have heart attacks.

Other kinds of heart problems may happen to the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease.

You can help reduce your risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put you at greater risk:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Don't smoke
  • Get enough exercise

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Source: MedLinePlus (NIH)5

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.1 Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Together, heart disease and stroke are among the most widespread and costly health problems facing the Nation today, accounting for more than $500 billion in health care expenditures and related expenses in 2010 alone.2 Fortunately, they are also among the most preventable.

The leading modifiable (controllable) risk factors for heart disease and stroke are:

Over time, these risk factors cause changes in the heart and blood vessels that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. It is critical to address risk factors early in life to prevent the potentially devastating complications of chronic cardiovascular disease.

Source: Healthy People (DHHS)6

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Heart disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all women. The more risk factors you have, the greater the chance that you will develop heart disease. There are some risk factors that you cannot control, such as age, family health history, and race. But you can protect yourself from heart disease by not smoking, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, exercising, and eating well. These things also help prevent type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of heart disease.

Lesbians and bisexual women have a higher rate of obesity, smoking, and stress. All of these are risk factors for heart disease. As such, lesbians and bisexual women should talk with their doctors about how to prevent heart disease.

Source: OWH (DHHS)7

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The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). In CAD, plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes the arteries to narrow and harden. This keeps the heart from getting all the blood it needs. Blood clots may develop. If the clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the heart, it causes a heart attack. Stroke happens when the brain doesn’t get enough blood. Without enough blood, brain cells start to die.

Heart attack, stroke, and other forms of heart disease are a threat to so many women. But you can take steps to protect your heart and lower your risk. Steps include getting regular physical activity, making healthy food choices, knowing your numbers and taking good care of yourself overall. It is also important to make sure you talk to your doctor about heart health and the use of menopausal hormone therapy or aspirin.

Source: OWH (DHHS)8

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Reading those words may make you feel like you have no control. But many things can affect whether or not you develop heart disease, some of which you can control. That's why it is important to understand your personal risk factors.

Risk factors are conditions, habits, family history, and other facts about yourself that make you more likely to develop certain diseases. The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of getting certain diseases. Some risk factors such as age or family history can't be controlled. But many can be controlled by making changes in the way you live. In this section you can learn more about the different kinds of risk factors that you can and can't control.

Source: OWH (DHHS)9

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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. Women of any age can have heart disease. But your risk goes up sharply after menopause.

Source: OWH (DHHS)10

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death and a major cause of disability. Even if you've had surgery or take medicine to help blood flow in your heart, you need to adopt a healthy lifestyle to control your heart disease, prevent a first or second heart attack, and increase your chances for a long and an active life. Making lifestyle changes isn't always easy, especially if you have many unhealthy habits or are not feeling your best. Also, people with heart disease are often depressed, which can make it hard to want to take care of yourself. But managing heart disease can be done with good medical care, a healthy lifestyle, and the support of your family and friends.

Source: OWH (DHHS)11

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In the United States, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. Often, though, people don’t know they are at risk for heart problems.

Heart disease includes a number of conditions affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This happens slowly over time and is a major reason people have heart attacks.

Source: OWH (DHHS)12

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death nationwide, and it’s a major cause of disability. Finding heart problems early can help prevent more serious troubles later and save lives. Doctors have many techniques for diagnosing heart disease. Among these are imaging tests that take “pictures” of your heart.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)13

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Summary

Any structural anomaly of the heart. [from HPO]

Source: GTR (NCBI/NIH)14

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Summary

If you're like most people, you think that heart disease is a problem for others. But heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It's the major reason people have heart attacks. Other kinds of heart problems may happen to the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease. You can help reduce your risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put you at greater risk:. - Control your blood pressure. - Lower your cholesterol. - Don't smoke. - Get enough exercise. NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. [from MedlinePlus]

Source: GTR (NCBI/NIH)15

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What is heart disease?

"Heart disease" refers to several types of problems that affect the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). Heart disease is also called cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes diseases of the blood vessels, which carry blood to different parts of your body. These include coronary artery disease, vascular (peripheral artery) disease, and stroke.

Source: OWH (DHHS)16

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Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Some of the symptoms and risk factors for heart disease and heart attack are different for women than men. Your risk may also be different from other women. But every woman can take steps to prevent heart disease by knowing her risk factors and making healthy changes.

Source: OWH (DHHS)17

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cardiovascular disease: Any disease of the circulatory system, namely the heart (cardio) or blood vessels (vascular). Includes heart attack, angina, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Also known as circulatory disease.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare18

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Heart, stroke and vascular diseases include a range of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. These conditions are commonly grouped under the broader term of cardiovascular disease, or CVD. The most common and serious types of CVD include coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. CVD remains a major health problem in Australia, despite declining mortality and hospitalisation rates.  An estimated 4.2 million people were living with CVD in 2014-15, and it generally has a greater impact on males, the elderly, Indigenous Australians and people living in remote and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare19

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cardiovascular disease: The term cardiovascular disease (CVD) is used to describe many different conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. The most common and serious types of CVD in Australia are coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and heart failure.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare20

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Heart (cardiovascular) disease is when your heart or blood vessels aren’t working properly. Heart disease can include angina and heart attacks.

Source: New Zealand Health21

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Your heart pumps blood around your body through your arteries and veins. The blood contains oxygen and nutrients that keep your body working. When there’s something wrong with your heart or blood vessels, it’s known as heart (cardiovascular) disease.

Source: New Zealand Health22

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

It's usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries - known as atherosclerosis - and an increased risk of blood clots. It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.

CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.

Source: NHS Choices UK23

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CVD is a general term that describes conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, and it includes life-threatening problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Source: NHS Choices UK24

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Heart Disease: A non-neoplastic or neoplastic disorder that affects the heart and/or the pericardium. Representative examples include endocarditis, pericarditis, atrial myxoma, cardiac myeloid sarcoma, and pericardial malignant mesothelioma.25

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Cardiovascular Abnormalities: Congenital, inherited, or acquired anomalies of the Cardiovascular System, including the Heart and Blood Vessels.26

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Heart disease: A cardiovascular system disease that involves the heart.27

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Heart disease: A cardiovascular system disease that involves the heart.28

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Fast facts

  1. In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. In fact, coronary heart disease (CHD)—the most common type of heart disease—is the #1 killer of both men and women in the U.S.
  2. About 6.6 million American women have coronary heart disease, according to 2012 figures from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
  3. Each year, 395,000 women have a heart attack, or about one every minute and a half.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)29

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References

  1. Source: CDC: cdc.gov/ heartdisease/ about.htm
  2. Source: NIDDK (NIH): niddk.nih.gov/ health-information/ health-topics/ weight-control/ health_risks_being_overweight/ Pages/ health-risks-being-overweight.aspx
  3. Source: NHLBI (NIH): nhlbi.nih.gov/ health/ educational/ lose_wt/ 
  4. Source: NIEHS (NIH): niehs.nih.gov/ health/ assets/ docs_a_e/ environmental_diseases_environmental_diseases_from_a_to_z_english_508.pdf
  5. Source: MedLinePlus (NIH): medlineplus.gov/ heartdiseases.html
  6. Source: Healthy People (DHHS): healthypeople.gov/ 2020/ topics-objectives/ topic/ heart-disease-and-stroke
  7. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ publications/ our-publications/ fact-sheet/ lesbian-bisexual-health.html
  8. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ heart-health-stroke/ heart-disease-stroke-prevention/ index.html
  9. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ heart-health-stroke/ heart-disease-risk-factors/ index.html
  10. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ aging/ diseases-conditions/ heart-disease.html
  11. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ illnesses-disabilities/ types-illnesses-disabilities/ heart-disease.html
  12. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ mens-health/ top-health-concerns-for-men/ heart-disease.html
  13. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): newsinhealth.nih.gov/ issue/ mar2014/ capsule2
  14. Source: GTR (NCBI/NIH): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ gtr/ conditions/ CN001482/ 
  15. Source: GTR (NCBI/NIH): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ gtr/ conditions/ C0018799/ 
  16. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ heart-disease-and-stroke/ heart-disease/ heart-disease-and-women
  17. Source: OWH (DHHS): womenshealth.gov/ heart-disease-and-stroke/ heart-disease
  18. Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: aihw.gov.au/ reports-statistics/ health-welfare-overview/ australias-health/ glossary
  19. Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: aihw.gov.au/ reports-statistics/ health-conditions-disability-deaths/ heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/ overview
  20. Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: aihw.gov.au/ reports-statistics/ population-groups/ older-people/ glossary
  21. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses
  22. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses/ heart-disease
  23. Source: NHS Choices UK: nhs.uk/ conditions/ Cardiovascular-disease/ 
  24. Source: NHS Choices UK: nhs.uk/ conditions/ rheumatoid-arthritis/ complications/ 
  25. Source: NCI Thesaurus
  26. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  27. Source: Disease Ontology
  28. Source: Monarch Initiative
  29. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): medlineplus.gov/ magazine/ issues/ winter14/ articles/ winter14pg20.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.