Understanding Heart Disease

Although it is preventable, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States and globally. It is also called coronary heart disease and includes various conditions that affect the heart. The most common form is atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty plaque develops in arteries, causing narrowing, blockage, and/or hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure.

Blockage in coronary arteries makes it difficult for blood to flow to the heart, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Shortness of breath

Causes of heart disease

There is no one cause of heart disease. Rather, it is from the combination of various factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, and genetics. You can modify some risks for heart disease, like poor diet and unhealthy weight, but not others like genetics and age. However, by reducing your lifestyle risks, you can reduce your overall risk for heart disease.

Reduce your risk for heart disease by avoiding these lifestyle-related risks:

  • Smoking – Using tobacco products increases the risk of heart disease by 2-4 times.
  • Unhealthy diet – A diet high in fat, salt, and cholesterol can contribute to the development of high blood pressure and ultimately heart disease. 
  • Diabetes– Having diabetes increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Being sedentary – People who are not active and exercise fewer than three times a week are more likely to develop heart disease.
  • Overweight or obesity – People who have excess body fat are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, even if they have no other risk factors.
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol levels – As blood pressure and cholesterol levels rise, so does the risk of heart disease.
  • Stress– High levels of stress may increase the risk of developing heart disease.

For more information on heart disease and diet, check out Heart Health: Managing Heart Disease Through Diet: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/heart-health-managing-heart-disease-through-diet-9-384/.

Did You Know?

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Although most people survive their first heart attack, lifestyle changes may be necessary to prevent future heart attacks.