What is Heart Disease?

“Heart disease” refers to a range of conditions that affect the structure or function of your heart. Types of heart disease include:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) – Plaque (cholesterol) buildup that narrows the coronary arteries and affects blood flow within the heart
  • Congenital heart disease – Heart problems present at birth
  • Arrhythmia
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy – Widened heart chambers due to a weakened heart muscle, meaning the heart isn’t pumping blood as it should
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – Genetic disorder that thickens the heart’s left ventricle wall, making it harder for blood to pump through
  • Mitral valve prolapse or regurgitation – Failure of a heart valve to close tightly, allowing blood to flow back into the heart
  • Pulmonary stenosis – Narrowed heart valve that doesn’t pump blood properly from the right ventricle into the pulmonary artery

Causes & Risk Factors for Heart Disease

You cannot prevent some risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, age and heart problems you are born with.

But you can ask your primary care doctor for help to manage some lifestyle factors that increase your risk of heart disease:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy diet

Check Your Risk of Heart Disease

Give yourself a point for each risk factor that applies to you or any blood relative (parent, sibling, etc.).

  • Heart disease before age 55
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure (current or past)
  • High blood cholesterol (current or past)
  • High blood triglycerides – greater than 150
  • Heart surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Physically active for less than 30 minutes a day
  • Tobacco use
  • Eating fried or fatty foods three times a week or more
  • Stressful life
  • Waist size – greater than 35” (women) or 40” (men)

What Your Score Means

If you scored a total of 5 or more and are not currently being treated for a heart condition, talk to your family doctor about your risk for heart disease. If you don’t have a family doctor, check our physician directory to find one near you.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

Keep your heart in prime condition by adopting these lifelong healthy habits:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet – Avoid or limit foods such as animal fats, sugar, and fried foods. Eat fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins like fish.
  • Exercise regularly – Physical activity helps your heart work more efficiently, making blood flow more easily. Exercise keeps your blood pressure low and your arteries clear. That means your heart doesn’t need to work as hard. 
  • Aim for and maintain a healthy weight – If you’re overweight, losing just 10 percent of your body weight can lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Avoid smoking, vaping and tobacco – These products raise your heart rate and blood pressure, make your blood sticky and robbing your heart of oxygen.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor to manage cholesterol, blood pressure and other conditions.
  • Limit alcohol because too much can raise blood triglycerides.
  • Reduce and manage stress because when stressed, your body releases the "stress hormone" cortisol, which can raise blood pressure and cholesterol.

Help for High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, contributes to heart disease and cardiac complications. Ask your doctor for a referral to the hypertension clinic at AnMed Cardiology for customized treatments to lower and stabilize your blood pressure.