Heart Disease Basics

Healthline recently put together this infograph below showcasing heart disease statistics and facts to help you understand your risk for a heart attack or other heart-related issues. This up-to-date information (2014) is easy to understand and read.

Heart Disease by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You

“The average person’s heart will beat about 2 billion times in their lifetime. Yet heart disease and heart attack threaten to cut that number short. Learn statistics to find out if you’re at risk and what you can do to protect your ticker and live a longer, healthier life.”



Written by Rachael Maier
Medically Reviewed on February 21, 2014 by George Krucik, MD, MBA





Go Red For Women

Go Red For Women‘s goal is to reduce coronary heart disease and stroke by the year 2010 by 25%. They have worked hard to change the perception that heart disease is a “man’s disease.”  And it’s working! By teaching more and more women how to talk to their doctors about heart disease, they save thousands of lives every year. The good news is that heart disease is often preventable!

And in case anyone still believes that heart disease is only a concern for older women, they encourage you to read the inspiring stories  they’ve collected. Together, they make the case plain and simple: the time for action is now!

Women are speaking up about the No. 1 killer of women — heart disease. The good news is that by taking action, we can beat that statistic.

There are so many ways you can become an advocate of women’s heart health. Taking care of you is the first priority. Get empowered with the facts, find a community of support, make healthy changes to your diet and exercise. Start with the Heart CheckUp. Then speak up to your doctor about having a lipo-protein blood screening.

Spread the word to those you love — your neighbor, your friend, your mother or sister. When you speak up, you help save their lives.

Alternative Medicine

There are several alternative medicines that may be effective in lowering cholesterol and preventing some types of heart disease, including:

As with any alternative medicine, talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your treatment regimen. Even natural medicines and herbal supplements can interact with medications you’re taking.

Preventing Heart Disease

Certain types of heart disease, such as heart defects, can’t be prevented. However, you can help prevent many other types of heart disease by making the same lifestyle changes that can improve your heart disease, such as by:

Coping and Support

You may feel frustrated, upset or overwhelmed upon learning you or your loved one has heart disease. Fortunately, there are ways to help cope with heart disease or improve your condition. These include:

  • Cardiac rehabilitation. For people who have cardiovascular disease that’s caused a heart attack or has required surgery to correct, cardiac rehabilitation is often recommended as a way to improve treatment and speed recovery. Cardiac rehabilitation is a program often divided into phases that involve various levels of monitored exercise, nutritional counseling, emotional support, and support and education about lifestyle changes to reduce your risks of heart problems.
  • Support groups. Finding out that you or a loved one has heart disease can be unnerving. Turning to friends and family for support is essential, but if you find you need more help, talk to your doctor about joining a support group. You may find that talking about your concerns with others who are experiencing the same difficulties can help.
  • Continued medical checkups. If you have a recurring or chronic heart condition, it’s a good idea to regularly check in with your doctor to make sure you’re properly managing your heart condition. Regular checkups can help your doctor decide if you need to change your treatment, and may help catch new problems early, if they occur. If you’re the parent of a child with heart disease, it’s a good idea to encourage your child to regularly visit his or her doctor to monitor a heart condition in adulthood.
  • Go Red For Women

Tests and Diagnosis

The tests you’ll need to diagnose your heart disease depend on what condition your doctor thinks you might have. No matter what type of heart disease you have, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask about your personal and family medical history before doing any other tests. Tests to diagnose heart disease can include:

  • Blood tests. You may need to have your blood drawn and tested for substances in your blood that could indicate you have heart disease. Your doctor may check the levels of your cholesterol and triglycerides, blood cell counts, or other blood tests that might show there’s damage to your heart.
  • Chest X-ray. An image is created by directing X-rays at your chest and positioning a large piece of photographic film or a digital recording plate against your back. The X-ray machine produces a small burst of radiation that passes through your body and produces an image on the film or digital plate. A chest X-ray shows a picture of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. It can reveal if your heart is enlarged, a sign of some forms of heart disease.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this noninvasive test, a technician will place probes on your chest that record the electrical impulses that make your heart beat. An ECG records these electrical signals and can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart’s rhythm and structure. You may have an ECG while you’re at rest, or while exercising (stress electrocardiogram).
  • Holter monitoring. A Holter monitor is a portable device that you wear to record a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours. Holter monitoring is used to detect occasional heart rhythm irregularities that aren’t found during a regular ECG exam.


One of the most common complications of heart disease is heart failure.

  • Heart failure. Heart failure occurs when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Over time, the heart can no longer keep up with the normal demands placed on it. The ventricles may become stiff and don’t fill properly between beats. Also, the heart muscle may weaken, and the ventricles stretch (dilate) to the point that the heart can’t pump blood efficiently throughout your body. Heart failure can result from many forms of heart disease, including heart defects, cardiovascular disease, valvular heart disease, heart infections or cardiomyopathy.

Other complications of heart disease include:

  • Heart attack. Coronary artery disease can cause a heart attack. Heart attacks usually occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery — a blood vessel that feeds blood to a part of the heart muscle. Interrupted blood flow to your heart can damage or destroy a part of the heart muscle.
  • Stroke. Cardiovascular disease may cause an ischemic stroke, which happens when the arteries to your brain are narrowed or blocked and too little blood reaches your brain. A stroke is a medical emergency — brain tissue begins to die within just a few minutes of a stroke.
  • Aneurysm. Cardiovascular disease can also cause aneurysms, a serious complication that can occur anywhere in your body. An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of your artery. If an aneurysm bursts, you may face life-threatening internal bleeding. Although this is usually a sudden, catastrophic event, a slow leak is possible. If a blood clot within an aneurysm dislodges, it may block an artery at another point.
  • Peripheral artery disease. The same atherosclerosis that can lead to coronary artery disease can also lead to peripheral artery disease. When you develop peripheral artery disease (PAD), your extremities — usually your legs — don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking (claudication).
  • Sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. Sudden cardiac arrest usually results from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action and causes blood to stop flowing to the rest of your body. Sudden cardiac arrest almost always occurs in the context of other underlying heart problems, particularly coronary artery disease. Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it is fatal, resulting in sudden cardiac death.