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What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a blanket term that encapsulates several heart conditions. In the US, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease or CAD. CAD is a condition where the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed through plaque buildup. The buildup of plaque along artery walls is called atherosclerosis. The plaque itself is composed of a mixture of fat, cholesterol, and other lipids. An excess of plaque causes reduced blood flow to the heart, which in turn reduces oxygen to the heart muscle pumping the blood, and in some cases could lead to a heart attack.


What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Some pre-existing personal conditions, as well as certain lifestyle choices, can contribute to your level of risk for heart disease. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, and obesity can all increase a person’s risk of heart disease.


What can you do to reduce the risk of heart disease?

There are several lifestyle choices a person can take to reduce their risk of heart disease. Refraining from tobacco use, maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet, and moderate physical activity can all help make a person less vulnerable to heart disease. Persons being treated for heart disease should follow the guidance of their health care providers for what steps are best for them.


Can taking aspirin reduce heart disease?

Aspirin has been proven to help prevent the recurrence of a heart attack in people at high risk. However, patients should not start aspirin therapy without first talking with their doctor. People who take aspirin regularly should not drink alcohol.

Research has shown that getting an aspirin early in the treatment of a heart attack caused by a blood clot, along with Emergency medical treatment, can significantly improve your chances of survival. However, taking aspirin isn’t advised during a stroke, because not all strokes are caused by blood clots. Some strokes are caused by ruptured blood vessels, in which case aspirin would make bleeding more severe. Your doctor can tell you what the best steps for you to take in the event of a heart attack.


What are symptoms of a heart attack?

If you suspect that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Tightness and discomfort in the chest area: Most heart attacks cause pain in the center of the chest, lasting for more than a few minutes. Discomfort may subside for a minute and then return. The sensation is an uncomfortable pressure, a feeling of swelling, fullness, or a painful squeezing.
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: This symptom may occur before any feeling of discomfort arises in the chest, but most often accompanies it.
  • Sweating and nausea: Breaking out in a cold sweat, or experiencing nausea and light-headedness is also common in the event of a heart attack.


What is sudden cardiac death?

Sudden cardiac death occurs when the heart abruptly stops beating. Unlike a heart attack, which is usually caused by a blocked artery, sudden cardiac death happens for unknown reasons and may even occur when heart disease is not present.


What is congestive heart failure?

Congestive heart failure is a type of heart disease, commonly affecting the elderly. Often it is a result of another type of heart condition when the heart is unable to pump enough blood from its chambers to supply the body’s needs. Sometimes this condition occurs when a person’s heart chambers become stiff and do not relax to absorb blood.


What is heart arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat differing from the normally steady beat of the heart. The heart may seem to skip a beat or beat either very quickly or very slowly. There are several different types of arrhythmias, which can originate in various areas of the heart tissue. Some arrhythmias may cause more severe symptoms than others. You should contact your physician about any symptoms you may be experiencing.


What causes heart arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias occur commonly in middle-aged adults. Often, there is no recognizable cause. Heart disease, stress, caffeine, tobacco, diet pills, and cough or cold medicines can all cause arrhythmias.


What is hypertension?

Hypertension is most commonly referred to as high blood pressure. This term describes a condition in which a person’s blood pressure is chronically elevated. Persistent hypertension is one of the risk factors for strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, and arterial aneurysm, and is a leading cause of chronic renal failure. Hypertension is classified as when someone’s systolic blood pressure is consistently 140 mmHg or greater, and/or when their diastolic blood pressure is consistently 90 mmHg or greater.


What is interventional cardiology?

Interventional cardiology uses catheter-based treatment of structural heart diseases. Many different heart procedures can be performed using catheterization, which most often involves the insertion of a sheath into the femoral artery and cannulating the heart under X-ray visualization. Examples of interventional cardiology procedures include angioplasty and valvuloplasty.


How will quitting smoking help reduce my risk of heart attack?

The likelihood of having a heart attack drops almost immediately after you put down that last cigarette. Quitting now, no matter what age you are will greatly improve your odds. Furthermore, in three years time, no matter how long you have smoked, the likelihood of a heart attack falls to nearly the same level as if you had never smoked at all. It is never too late to quit smoking.


What are angioplasty and cardiac catheterization?

Angioplasty is the mechanical widening of a narrowed or completely obstructed blood vessel, most commonly caused by plaque buildup. Cardiac catheterization involves inserting a thin plastic tube called a catheter, into an artery or vein. It can be advanced into the chambers of the heart or into the coronary arteries. The catheters used in coronal angioplasty have a balloon on the tip.

Stents are wire mesh tubes used to prop open an artery during an angioplasty. The stent is collapsed to a small diameter and put over a balloon catheter and moved into place. The stent expands to a larger diameter when inflated, where it stays permanently in the heart to help restore normal blood flow. In a few weeks, the inside lining of the artery grows over the stent.