Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source. In the United States, 1 in every 4 deaths in is the result of a heart disease. That’s about 610,000 people who die from the condition each year.
Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Several diseases and conditions fall under the umbrella of heart disease. Types of heart disease include:
- Arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a heart rhythm abnormality.
- Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries.
- Cardiomyopathy. This condition causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak.
- Congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are heart irregularities that are present at birth.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries. It’s sometimes called ischemic heart disease.
- Heart infections. Heart infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Causes of cardiovascular disease
While cardiovascular disease can refer to different heart or blood vessel problems, the term is often used to mean damage to your heart or blood vessels by atherosclerosis (ath-ur-o-skluh-ROE-sis), a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. Plaque buildup thickens and stiffens artery walls, which can inhibit blood flow through your arteries to your organs and tissues.
Atherosclerosis is also the most common cause of cardiovascular disease. It can be caused by correctable problems, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking.
Causes of heart arrhythmia
Common causes of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or conditions that can lead to arrhythmias include:
- Heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects)
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine
- Drug abuse
- Some over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies
- Valvular heart disease
How to Identify?
Your doctor may order several types of tests and evaluations to make a heart disease diagnosis. Some of these tests can be performed before you ever show signs of heart disease. Others may be used to look for possible causes of symptoms when they develop.
- Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
What to Do?
Heart disease can’t be cured or reversed. It requires a lifetime of treatment and careful monitoring. Many of the symptoms of heart disease can be relieved with medications, procedures, and lifestyle changes. When these methods fail, coronary intervention or bypass surgery might be used.