Heart Disease

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.


Different kinds of heart disease affect various parts of your heart.
Heart disease has many types and can affect various parts of your heart.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a variety 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) and the heart attacks it can cause. But you can have trouble with different parts of your heart, like your heart muscle, valves or electrical system.

When your heart isn’t working well, it has trouble sending enough blood, oxygen and nutrients to your body. 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.

Lifestyle changes and medications can keep your heart healthy and lower your chances of getting heart disease.

What are the types of heart disease?

Heart disease types include:

How common is heart disease?

Heart disease is the top cause of death in the United States. In 2021, 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 375,000 of those deaths.

Heart disease affects people from most ethnic backgrounds, regardless of sex.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

You can have different symptoms of heart disease depending on what’s wrong. Heart disease symptoms may include:

  • Pounding or racing heart (palpitations).
  • Sweating.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness or sudden unexplained loss of consciousness.
  • Chest or upper body pain, pressure, heaviness or discomfort.
  • Neck pain.
  • Heartburn or indigestion.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Swelling in your lower body.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Inability to handle exercise.
  • Fever.

What are the early warning signs of heart disease?

Early warning signs of heart disease include:

What causes heart disease?

Different types of heart disease have different causes. Heart disease causes include:

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Heart disease causes may be more likely to happen to you if you have certain risk factors. Risk factors for heart disease include:


What are the complications of heart disease?

Some types of heart disease can lead to other kinds of heart disease. Complications of heart disease — many of which are life-threatening — include:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is heart disease diagnosed?

A provider can make a heart disease diagnosis after:

  • Doing a physical exam.
  • Hearing about your symptoms.
  • Learning about your personal and biological family health history.
  • Performing diagnostic tests.

What tests will be done to diagnose heart disease?

Tests to diagnose various types of heart disease include:


Management and Treatment

How is heart disease treated?

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:

  • Changing your lifestyle: This could consist of cutting saturated fats from your meals, stopping the use of tobacco products or starting a walking program.
  • Taking medicine: You can lower blood pressure and cholesterol with medicine. Also, certain medications can help with heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms. You need to consistently take these medications the way your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • Having surgeries or procedures: You may need open-heart surgery, minimally invasive surgery or an ablation. Other procedures include catheterization procedures, stent placement or cardioversion.
  • Taking part in a cardiac rehab program: This supervised exercise program can strengthen your heart after a heart attack. With nutritional counseling and monitored exercise, it provides extra support for changing your lifestyle.

Complications/side effects of the treatment

Most prescription medications have some side effects. Medicines you take to lower your blood pressure can make you dizzy or tired or give you a headache. The most common medications that help you manage your cholesterol levels can give you sore muscles, nausea or headaches.

Surgeries or procedures have some risks, like bleeding, stroke, abnormal heartbeats, infection or other issues.

How long does it take to recover from treatment?

Depending on the surgery or procedure you have, your recovery can take a few days to many weeks. You may only need a few days to recover from minor procedures. But you may need two to four weeks to recover from minimally invasive surgery and six to 12 weeks to recover from open-heart surgery.


Can heart disease be prevented?

You can lower your risk of some kinds of heart disease in these ways:

  • Reach and stay at a weight that’s healthy for you.
  • Manage other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Get at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day on most days of the week.
  • Decrease your stress level.
  • Eat foods low in salt and saturated fat. (Your healthcare provider can recommend heart-healthy foods).
  • Don’t use any tobacco products.

You can’t prevent congenital heart disease because you’re born with it.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have heart disease?

Medications and/or procedures can help people who have various types of heart disease. It’s easier to treat most types of heart disease 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 provider’s treatment plan.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

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.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you have a biological 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.

When should I go to the ER?

Call your local emergency number if you suddenly experience these issues:

  • Chest pain, pressure, heaviness or discomfort.
  • Fainting.
  • Shortness of breath.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What kind of heart disease do I have?
  • Is my family at risk for this type of disease?
  • What’s the best treatment for my situation?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your heart has a crucial job, so it’s important to pay attention to 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. Even if you have risk factors you can’t change, there are other things you have the power to change.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/06/2023.

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