Overview & Facts

Overwhelmed with information? Start here. Learn the facts about how the heart works — and the causes and risk factors for heart disease.

What Is Heart Disease?

Where should you start? Here! Follow this link to an illustrated guide to how the healthy heart works. You need this information to understand heart disease.

You asked. We answer. Here’s an easy-to-read, illustrated guide to heart disease.


Atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries — occurs when the walls of these blood vessels thicken due to deposits of fat and plaque. This narrowing or blockage of the arteries causes heart disease.

The risk factors for heart disease: smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes. Here’s a brief, excellent overview from the National Institutes of Health. Note: clicking here will open a printable PDF document.

Are You at Risk?

Some heart-disease risks you’re born with. Some you can avoid. Here’s where to learn what to do about both kinds of risk factors for heart disease.

Evaluate your personal health and your risks for big health problems.

Your doctor may be tracking your homocysteine level. Click here to find out why.

Close your eyes and imagine someone with heart disease. You’re probably thinking of a man. But heart disease is a women’s health problem, too. Read about it here.

Heart disease, and some of its risk factors, is more prevalent among black women than white woman. Read why heart disease hits black women harder and read what can be done to reduce risk.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Latin women in the U.S. Together with stroke, heart disease accounts for 30% of all deaths in Latin women. Read more about how to reduce your risk.

Your doctor may also be tracking your CRP level. Click here to find out why.

Yes, there is a link between common painkillers and heart disease. Learn more here.

People with heart disease are at risk for depression, and people with depression are at greater risk for developing heart disease. Read about this risk factor. This link takes you to another site.

This “silent killer” accounts for 20% of African-American deaths in the U.S. Read more. This link will take you to another web site.

High blood pressure can harm the mother’s kidneys and other organs, and it can cause low birth weight and early delivery.

This cluster of risk factors increases the risk of heart disease. Read more and see how you can improve your heart health.

People with diabetes have 2-4 four times the risk of dying of heart disease; it is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes. Read more. This link will take you to another web site.

One in three Americans has high blood pressure, a risk factor that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions. Read more. This link will take you to another web site.


Good HDL cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol: Here’s where to find out what they mean for heart disease, and what you can do about it.

Click here to learn why you need to keep track of your blood pressure — and how to lower high blood pressure.

What you eat affects your heart. Find out why, and learn the basics of a heart-healthy diet.

A healthy diet, medication, and moderate exercise can lower most people’s cholesterol. Regular aerobic activities have a good effect on blood vessels and cholesterol. See why.

In your heart of hearts, you know your heart needs exercise. You’re never too old or too out of shape to start exercising. Start by briskly clicking here.

You know it’s bad for your lungs. It hurts your heart, too. Don’t click your lighter before clicking here.

Stress itself isn’t so bad — it’s all in how you handle it. Here are some helpful tips.

What’s the buzz on booze? The news isn’t bad for moderate drinkers. Here’s why.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant — one of those substances that fight dangerous free radicals. Can they help you avoid heart disease? Click here for more information.

Doctors once thought hormone therapy would protect women against heart disease. That’s no longer the case. Here’s why.


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