Heart Disease: Are You At Risk?


Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The key to lowering your risk is prevention, early detection and advanced treatment.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to a plaque buildup or blockage inside of one or more of the arteries that feed your heart. This buildup is known as atherosclerosis and is caused by hardening of the artery wall or fatty particles sticking to the artery wall. This buildup can reduce the blood flow to the heart muscle. As a result, your heart may not get all of the oxygen-rich blood it needs. Atherosclerosis can occur in any or all of the three main arteries of the heart: the right coronary artery, the left anterior descending artery, or the left circumflex artery. Branches of the main arteries may also be affected.

If heart disease runs in your family, you may inherit a tendency for the disease. It can also be caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices.

Risk Factors of Heart Disease:

  • high blood pressure
  • cigarette smoking
  • high fat diet
  • being overweight
  • lack of exercise
  • emotional stress

Heart disease can cause angina, which is pressure, tightness or pain in your lower chest, upper abdomen, arm, neck, back or jaw. It can also be an indigestion type of pain occurring alone or in combination with any of the above. If not treated, heart disease can lead to a heart attack. Sometimes you may not have symptoms to warn you, so it is important to tell your doctor if heart disease runs in your family. Avoiding or controlling other risk factors may reduce your risk for the disease. 

During your visit, your doctor will have a detailed discussion with you concerning your medical, social and family history. It is important that you describe any symptoms you may be having. A complete physical exam along with diagnostic testing also helps a physician to diagnose heart disease. This testing may include a nuclear scan, CT angiography and/or a heart catheterization.

The type of treatment(s) used for heart disease is based on the findings of the physical exam and diagnostic testing, along with information about symptoms and personal history.

Treatment Options for Heart Disease: 

  • medication management
  • angioplasty or stenting (minally-invasive approaches)
  • bypass surgery
  • improving diet and lifestyle choices