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What Is Heart Disease?

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until a person experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia. When these events happen, symptoms may include

  • Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
  • Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of people in the United States (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.2 Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or some types of heart surgery. Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that includes:

  • Physical activity
  • Education about healthy living, including healthy eating, taking medicine as prescribed, and ways to help you quit smoking
  • Counseling to find ways to relieve stress and improve mental health

A team of people may help you through cardiac rehab, including your health care team, exercise and nutrition specialists, physical therapists, and counselors or mental health professionals.


Content source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention