Heart and Cardiovascular Disease

The terms heart disease and cardiovascular disease are often used interchangeably. Heart disease is a broad term used to describe a variety of diseases that affect ones heart and sometimes blood vessels. Cardiovascular disease is a term that generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked vessels that can lead to heart attack, chest pain (angina), or stroke.

Globally, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, the United States included. It is responsible for 40% of all deaths in the U.S. This is more than all forms of cancer combined.

Heart conditions such as infections, conditions that affect the heart muscle, values or beating rhythm (arrhythmia’s) are considered heart diseases. Various other diseases such as coronary artery disease (CAD), which includes heart attacks and angina pectoris or chest pains, stroke, high blood pressure and heart failure are also included.


Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure. It is diagnosed when the pressure in the arteries is consistently higher than what is considered normal range.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel’s walls. It is written as two numbers, such as 130/70. The top number is called systolic which is the pressure pushing against the walls as the heart beats. Diastolic, the lower number, is the pressure when the heart is at rest.

High blood pressure is diagnosed when there are increased readings of 140/90 or higher on a consistent basis. Sometimes one can not tell they have high blood pressure until they experience more serious complications. These complications can include hardened arteries, heart failure, stroke or heart attack.


Myocardial infarct is much more commonly known as a heart attack. They occur when blood flow to part of the heart is blocked. This can be caused by many reasons, including hardening of the arteries or blood clot. Symptoms include increased heart rate; sudden painful, crushing feeling in the chest, sometimes with pain radiating down one or both arms, throat and back; increased sweating; and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The severity of the MI depends on teh size of the artery that is blocked. Regardless of the cause, immediate medical attention is extremely important.


In laymen’s terms, a cerebral vascular accident (CVA) is more commonly known as a stroke. Strokes are caused by a rupture or blockage in the blood vessels in the brain. Symptoms vary depending on the cause, location of the blockage and the extent of the damage to the brain. They may include dizziness, severe headache, mental confusion, and poor coordination. When a CVA occurs the part of the brain that can’t function and neither can the part of the body it controls.


Transient Ischemic attacks (TIA) are mini strokes. They are caused by decreased blood flow in vessels to the brain. They are often warning signs of an oncoming CVA (stroke). Symptoms vary widely from mild changes in speech or mental acuity (confusion) to obvious loss of sensation or coordination.


Heart failure is just as it sounds, the inability of the heart to function properly. When the heart isn’t working as it should it is not able to pump blood correctly, depriving the body of the full amount of blood and oxygen it needs.

There are many heart and cardiovascular diseases. They vary widely in their severity and cause. The best defense against these life threatening diseases are regular annual physicals and trying to live a healthy life style.