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What is Heart Disease?

The term heart disease is used to describe any type of disorder that affects the heart. Here you can learn the warning signs of heart disease and how to reduce your risk.

A female provider points to a heart model as she speaks with a male patient

Heart disease means the same as cardiac disease but not cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease refers to disorders of the blood vessels and heart, while heart disease refers to just the heart. 25.4% of all deaths in the U.S. today are caused by heart disease.

There are many types of heart disease including: angina, arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, myocardial infarction, heart failure, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, mitral regurgitation, mitral valve prolapse and pulmonary stenosis.

An older women stands in her kitchen clutching her chest in pain

Warning signs of heart disease

In the early stages of heart disease symptoms may seem like annoyances that come and go. In women, these can be even more subtle. You may have heart arrhythmias that can cause:

  • difficulty catching your breath when you do things like walk up a flight of stairs
  • discomfort in your chest that lasts for 30 minutes or a few hours
  • pain in your upper torso, neck and jaw
  • heartbeats that are slower or faster than normal
  • dizziness or fainting
  • extreme fatigue
  • swelling, pain, tingling or numbness in your extremities
  • dry cough, fever and skin rashes in the case that your heart disease is caused by an infection
A table is covered in a prescription pad, stethoscope, water bottle, weights and an apple

How to reduce your risk

  • live a healthy lifestyle
  • quit smoking
  • improve your cholesterol levels
  • control high blood pressure
  • get active
  • follow a heart healthy diet
  • get to a healthy weight
  • control diabetes
  • manage stress and anger

For more information on lifestyle changes to reduce your risk from the American Heart Association, click here.