What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is an expansive term that is used to describe a range of health conditions that affect the heart. There are a number of diseases encompassed in this term, including diseases of the blood vessels, or cardiovascular disease, heart defects and heart infections. Many forms of heart disease are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise.
Cardiovascular disease refers to damage that has developed in the heart or blood vessels as a result of damage to the arteries, the blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body.
Cardiovascular disease is caused by blocked, narrowed or stiffened blood vessels that prevent proper blood flow to the heart and brain, as well as other parts of the body. This often develops as a result of damage caused to the heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease, and is often caused as a result of an unhealthy diet, a lack of exercise, smoking and obesity.
Common symptoms of cardiovascular disease include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Being overweight or obese puts you at a greater risk for developing heart disease. Overweight individuals are more likely to have high blood pressure as well as high blood levels of cholesterol, both of which can lead to heart disease.
Other risk factors that are linked to heart disease include:
- Family medical history
- Tobacco use
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- High stress
- Poor hygiene
Treatment for Heart Disease
If you are experiencing any symptoms of heart disease, it is important that you speak with your physician about treatment options. For many people, lifestyle changes are an important aspect of treatment for heart disease. Eating a healthier diet, exercising more, relaxing and managing stress are all crucial components of heart health.
If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to improve your heart health, then your physician may prescribe medications to control your cardiovascular disease. Types of medications may include those to lower your blood pressure, manage your cholesterol levels, or blood thinning medications. There are also a number of medical or surgical procedures that can treat certain heart conditions.