Heart Disease

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart disease. This condition results when cholesterol and other substances cause plaque to build up inside the walls of the blood vessels that supply your heart muscle. These are called arteries. This buildup in arteries can lead to a heart attack. You can take actions to lower your risk of heart disease.


How Can Heart Disease Affect Me?

Heart disease can cause many unpleasant symptoms and complications, such as:

  • Chest pain or angina.

  • Reduced or blocked blood flow to your heart. This can cause:

    • Irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias.

    • Heart attack.

    • Heart failure.


What Can Increase My Risk? 

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • High blood pressure, or hypertension.

  • High cholesterol.

  • A diet high in saturated fats or trans fats.

  • Obesity.

  • Diabetes.

  • A family history of heart disease.

  • Certain lifestyle factors, including:

    • Smoking.

    • Lack of physical activity.

    • Drinking too much alcohol.

What Can I Do To Prevent Heart Disease?

Although heart disease remains the No.1 cause of death and disability in the United States, there are things you can do to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Eat Healthy

Healthy food habits can help you reduce three of the major risk factors for heart attack: high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess body weight. The best way to help lower your blood cholesterol level is to eat less saturated fat, avoid cholesterol and control your weight. Here are some other nutrition tips:

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and grain products, especially whole grains.

  • Consume fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, beans, skinless poultry and lean meats.

  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

  • Eat less than 6 grams of salt a day.

Get Moving

Physical activity is good for your entire body, especially your heart. Regular exercise (30 minutes on most days of the week, or (150 minutes each week) is one of the most important things you can do for your health. While getting into a regular exercise routine can be challenging, there are a number of easy ways to add physical activity into your days:

  • Take the stairs. Get in the habit of taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If you are going to a high floor, take the elevator part of the way — either walk up a few flights and then catch the elevator, or get off early and walk the rest of the way.

  • Go for a walk. Even a short walk around the block or through your office can help get your heart rate up and invigorate and refresh your body.

  • Clean the house. Vacuuming, dusting and even doing laundry gets you up and moving around.

  • Garden. Raking leaves, mowing the lawn and pruning plants all get you outside and active.

  • Shop. When running errands or going to the mall, park farther away and walk the extra distance. Wear your walking shoes and take an extra lap or two around the mall.

  • Talk on the phone. Stand up while talking on the phone or, better yet, walk around when using a cordless or cellular phone.

  • Play. Play and recreation are important for good health. Look for opportunities to be active and have fun at the same time.

  • Find a buddy. For many, it is easier to be active with a partner. Make a date with a friend to enjoy your favorite physical activities and try to get into a regular routine of being active together.

  • Go dancing. Both fun and physical, dancing is a great way to enjoy moving and grooving.


These are just a handful of the many simple ways you can increase the physical activity in your daily routine. The trick is to be creative and consistent.

Other Lifestyle Habits

Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as electronic cigarettes. These can damage your heart and blood vessels. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.

Do not drink alcohol if: 

  • Your doctor tells you not to drink.

  • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant. 


If you drink alcohol:

  • Have no more than one alcoholic drink (no more than 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol) per day.

  • If you're a woman and no more than two drinks if you're a man.


Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor. Work with your doctor to find out whether it is safe and helpful for you to take aspirin daily. Make sure that you understand how much to take and what form to take.

Depending on your risk factors, your health care doctor may prescribe medicines to lower your risk of heart disease or to control related conditions. You may take medicine to:

  • Lower cholesterol.

  • Control blood pressure.

  • Control diabetes.

General Information
  • Keep your blood pressure under control, as recommended by your doctor. For most healthy people, the upper number of their blood pressure should be no higher than 120, and the lower number should be no higher than 80. Treatment may be needed if your blood pressure is higher than 130/80.

  • Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. Your doctor may check your blood pressure more often if you have high blood pressure.

  • After age 20, have your cholesterol checked every 4-6 years. If you have risk factors for heart disease, you may need to have it checked more often. You may need treatment if your cholesterol is high.

  • Have your body mass index (BMI) checked every year. Your doctor can calculate your BMI from your height and weight.

  • Check your waist circumference. It should be:

    • No more than 35 inches for women who are not pregnant.

    • No more than 40 inches for men.

    • Work with your doctor to lose weight, if needed, or to maintain a healthy weight.


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These links lead to third-party websites. Those companies are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies on their sites. The information contained in this brochure is for educational purposes only. It does not represent a standard of care. Your physician must determine the appropriateness of the information in light of all your circumstances. It is important to discuss options with your physician when deciding on the best treatment for you.