FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is heart disease?
Heart disease—also called cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease—is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. Other types of heart disease include heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart valve problems.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Some conditions as well as some lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. The most important modifiable risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and obesity.
What can you do to reduce your risk for heart disease?
People can take steps to lower their risk of developing heart disease by preventing or treating and controlling high blood pressure, preventing or treating and controlling high blood cholesterol, by not using tobacco, by preventing or controlling diabetes, and by maintaining adequate physical activity, weight, and a healthy diet.
What is the connection between high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease?
High blood pressure occurs when very small arteries tighten. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through the smaller space and the pressure inside the vessels grows. The constant excess pressure on the artery walls weakens them making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis, or a buildup in the walls of the arteries.
How are smoking and heart disease linked?
Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, increases fatty deposits in the arteries, increases blood clotting, adversely affects blood lipid levels, and promotes coronary artery spasm. Nicotine accelerates the heart rate and raises blood pressure.
Is heart disease hereditary?
Heart disease can run in some families. But even if you inherit the risks factors that predispose you to heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or being overweight, there are measures you can take that will help you avoid developing cardiovascular disease.