What is heart disease?

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a general name for a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Source: CDC).

The heart is composed of muscle tissue that requires a steady supply of oxygen in order to pump blood effectively throughout the rest the body. Heart diseases can damage the coronary arteries, which provide oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Heart diseases can also impair the functioning or structure of the heart and blood vessels. Coronary artery disease causes most heart attacks and is the most common form of heart disease.

The types of heart disease include:

  • Atherosclerosis is a buildup of cholesterol, calcium and blood clotting material on the walls of the arteries. The material that builds up is called plaque.

  • Cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm.

  • Cardiomyopathy is a weakened and enlarged heart muscle.

  • Congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart.

  • Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply the heart.

  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction) is a lack of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle.

  • Heart failure is a condition in which the heart has been damaged from a heart attack or other type of heart disease.

  • Heart valve disorder is a malfunctioning heart valve that causes abnormal stress on the heart.

  • Myocarditis is an infection of the middle layer of the heart wall.

  • Pericarditis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the heart.

Left untreated, heart disease can result in serious complications, such as lethal cardiac arrhythmias, severe heart failure, cardiac arrest, and death. Some complications can occur suddenly and require immediate treatment. Immediate emergency treatment best minimizes the risk of complications.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have chest pain, difficulty breathing, or palpitations, which may be combined with dizziness, sweating, fainting, and anxiety.


What are the symptoms of heart disease?

Symptoms of heart disease can differ depending on the type and severity of heart disease and individual factors. Symptoms can occur as an isolated problem or in combination with other heart conditions. One well-known symptom of heart disease is chest pain, but not all chest pain is caused by heart disease.
Read more about heart diseasesymptoms


What causes heart disease?

The heart is a muscle that requires a steady supply of oxygen in order to pump blood effectively through the body. Oxygen is supplied to the heart by blood that flows through the coronary arteries. Some types of heart disease damage or block the coronary arteries and the flow of oxygen to the heart. Other forms of heart disease damage or impair the functioning of the heart and blood vessels. Th... Read more about heart diseasecauses


How is heart disease treated?

Some heart diseases that are diagnosed early can be successfully treated before the development of permanent heart damage and complications, such as heart failure and cardiac arrest. Heart disease treatment plans use a multifaceted approach and are individualized to the type and severity of your heart disease, risk factors, lifestyle, medical history, and other diseases and conditions you have.... Read more about heart diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation