Heart disease includes many diseases that affect your heart, but coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common and familiar one. CAD can create a waxy buildup in your heart’s arteries that can cause a heart attack. Healthy habits, medicines and procedures can prevent or treat CAD and other heart diseases.
Heart disease is a collection of issues that can affect your heart. When people think about heart disease, they often think of the most common type — coronary artery disease (CAD). However, you can have trouble with different parts of your heart, such as your heart muscle, valves or electrical system.
Heart disease kills more people in the United States than any other disease. In 2020, heart disease caused 1 in 5 deaths. That’s nearly 700,000 people. Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, caused about 380,000 of those deaths.
Heart disease affects people from most ethnic backgrounds, regardless of sex. Heart disease is the No.1 cause of death in the U.S.
When your heart isn’t working well, it has trouble sending enough blood to your body. Your blood brings oxygen and nutrients to your body’s organs, tissues and cells. If they can’t get what they need, it’s harder for them to function. In a way, your heart delivers the fuel that keeps your body’s systems running. If there’s a problem with delivering that fuel, it affects everything your body’s systems do.
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Early warning signs of heart disease include:
You can have different symptoms of heart disease depending on what’s wrong.
Different heart issues have different causes. When plaque (made up of mostly cholesterol) builds up in your heart’s arteries (atherosclerosis), you can get coronary artery disease.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
A provider can make a heart disease diagnosis after:
Tests to diagnose various types of heart disease include:
Depending on your heart issue, you may need to make changes to your daily life, take medication or have surgery.
Heart disease treatments may include:
Cardiac rehabilitation helps your heart regain strength. It provides extra support for changing your lifestyle. It involves nutritional counseling and monitored exercise.
Your healthcare provider may recommend cardiac rehab if you need heart surgery. You also may qualify for rehab if you’re recovering from a heart attack or stroke.
Cardiac rehabilitation may also be a good choice if you have trouble sticking to your heart disease treatment plan on your own. Ask your provider if you qualify for a hospital-based program. They may recommend another safe, healthy program for you.
Heart disease prevention isn’t possible for congenital (at birth) heart disease. But you can lower your risk of other kinds of heart disease in these ways:
Medications and/or procedures can help people who have various types of heart disease. Most types of heart disease are easier to treat if you get an early diagnosis instead of waiting for symptoms to get worse. Many people can live full lives when they follow their healthcare team’s treatment plan.
If you have coronary artery disease (the most common kind of heart disease), you can improve your health by making changes to your daily life. This may include reducing how much salt and saturated fat you eat and increasing how much you exercise. In addition, a provider may recommend taking medicine to lower your cholesterol and/or blood pressure.
If you have a family history of heart disease, you may want to ask your provider if you have other risk factors. If you do, you can make a plan to help prevent heart disease. Contact your provider if you have heart disease symptoms.
Call 911 if you suddenly experience these issues:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your heart has an important job, so you don’t want to ignore warning signs of a heart issue. Many heart diseases develop over time. Identifying heart disease early gives you the best chance of managing it well. Talk with a healthcare provider about the best ways to prevent heart disease or keep it from getting worse.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/01/2022.
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