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Heart (cardiovascular) disease definition and facts
Heart disease refers to various types of conditions that can affect heart function. These
Coronary artery (atherosclerotic)
heart disease that affects the arteries to the heart
Valvular heart disease that affects how the valves function to regulate blood flow in and out of the heart
Cardiomyopathy that affects how the heart muscle squeezes
Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) that affect the electrical conduction
Heart infections where the heart has structural problems that develop before birth
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the US.
Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle and coronary artery disease occurs when there is a buildup of
cholesterol plaque inside the artery walls. Over time, this buildup of plaque may partially block the artery and decrease blood flow through it.
A heart attack occurs when a plaque ruptures and forms a clot in the artery causing a complete blockage. That part of the heart muscle that is denied blood supply starts to die.
Classic signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease may include:
Chest pain (angina)
- This pain may radiate or move to the arm, neck or back.
Shortness of breath
Not all people with coronary artery disease
as a symptom. Some may have signs and symptoms of
indigestion, or exercise intolerance where they cannot perform activities that they normally once could.
Coronary heart disease is initially diagnosed by patient history and physical examination. EKG blood tests, and tests to image the arteries and heart muscle confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for coronary heart disease depends upon its severity. Many times lifestyle changes such as eating a heart healthy diet, exercising regularly,
stopping smoking and controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes may limit the artery narrowing.
In some people, surgery or other procedures might be needed.