Support & Resources

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you may be ready for more help, advice, and support. These links will take you there.

Finding Help

Anyone with heart disease faces a barrage of big words. Click here for translation into English everyone can understand.

Share information, get help, and give help in WebMD’s online heart disease support group.

Resources

Here’s how to get in touch with reliable organizations that offer support, information, and more.

Ask a nurse about heart disease on the WebMD heart disease message board.

Ask a nurse about heart-device issues on the WebMD heart-device message board.

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Living & Managing

Living with heart disease isn’t simple. But it’s something millions of people manage to do. Here are tips for taking control of your life.

Living and Coping

There’s no cure for heart disease. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. A click here will get you started.

It’s very likely your doctor will encourage you to get involved in a cardiac rehab program. Click here to see what it’s all about.

Got heart disease? Nothing is more important than eating heart-friendly foods. Click here to see what heart-healthy cooking is all about.

What exercises are best for those diagnosed with heart disease? Read more.

Personal Stories

Personal stories of people living and coping with heart disease.

Treatment & Care

Treatments for heart disease range from low-tech to high-tech. Read about them here. You’ll also find advice for caregivers — including tips for caregiver care.

Treatment

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation — CPR — is one link in what the American Heart Association calls the “chain of survival.” Learn CPR for a loved one.

“AEDs” for short, are devices capable of interpreting a person’s heart rhythm and automatically delivering a shock to prevent sudden death. Read more.

Care

A person with heart disease usually needs several medications. Taking them correctly is as necessary as it is difficult. Here are some tips.

Heart surgery recovery takes a lot of care. Here are some very, very important tips for the aftercare of a heart surgery patient.

It’s critically important to take one’s heart disease medication exactly as prescribed. It’s by no means an easy thing to do. Here’s how to help.

Don’t wait until you’ve got an unconscious heart patient on your hands. Learn the alphabet of heart emergency preparedness: CPR, AED, and 911. Clicking here may save a life.

As much as you may love someone with heart disease, you can’t help if you’ve got caregiver burnout. Here’s how to avoid it.

Taking care of a heart patient can raise your own blood pressure. Here are some tips for keeping your stress under control.

Not all healing comes from doctors and medicines. Click here for some brief advice on making spirituality part of your caregiving.

Diagnosis & Tests

Exactly when do you go from having risk factors to having heart disease? These links take you to information on the tests a doctor uses to diagnose heart disease.

Diagnosis

The first step is getting a doctor’s exam. Here’s a description of what the doctor will do.

Tests

Whether you spell it EKG or ECG, it’s an electrocardiogram. Learn the basics here.

Why get a chest X-ray? What happens? Click here for quick answers.

Does your heart respond well to exertion? That’s what a stress test looks for. Here’s a straightforward description, including how to prepare for a stress test.

The head-up tilt table test is used to help find the cause of fainting spells. Here’s what you need to know.

There are several variations on the echocardiogram, or “echo,” as doctors call it. Learn about these ultrasound-like tests of the heart — and find out what to expect — here.

Cardiac catheterization — also called a coronary angiogram — means running a catheter into your heart. It’s done to help doctors see what’s going on in there, and whether they need to operate. Here’s where to learn about it.

Electrophysiology — the EP test — takes measurements of your heart rhythm — recording the electrical activity and pathways of your heart. Start preparing for it by clicking here.

Computed tomography (CT scan) of the heart can visualize your heart’s anatomy. Calcium-score heart scan and coronary CT angiography are just a few types used to diagnose heart disease.

A myocardial biopsy is when a doctor uses a special catheter to remove a piece of your heart tissue for examination. Click here to learn why it’s done.

A heart MRI is a great way for doctors to get a look — from the outside — at how your heart is working. Read about it here.

Pericardiocentesis — also called a pericardial tap — means using a needle to get a sample of the fluid in the sac surrounding the heart. Here’s what you need to know.

Symptoms & Types

There are many types of heart disease. Here’s where to get quick facts on each one — including warning signs and symptoms.

Symptoms

Here’s a fast, easy-to-understand guide to the symptoms of each type of heart disease.

Warning Signs

If you or a loved one has heart disease, when must you call the doctor? When should you head for the emergency room? Click here for clear, fast information.

Don’t wait, click here for heart attack warning signs. For easy reference, you’ll also find stroke and cardiac arrest warning signs — and no-nonsense advice on what to do now. This link will take you to the American Heart Association.

Women are more likely than men to have a heart attack without chest pain. Read more data on gender-specific heart disease. This link takes you to another web site.

Doctors call it angina pectoris. You call it chest pain. It may feel like indigestion — or like an elephant just stepped on your chest. Here’s what it means.

Types

Coronary artery disease is America’s No.1 killer, affecting more than 13 million Americans.

View this illustrative guide to coronary artery disease.

You know there’s nothing funny about a heart attack. There’s a lot more to learn. Here’s what you need to know: no more, no less.

Irregular heart rhythm — arrhythmia — is when your heart doesn’t keep up a good beat. Learn what it means here.

It’s the most common kind of irregular heart beat. Here’s where to find out what it is, and what to do about it.

Irregular heart rhythms can cause the pumping function of the heart to fail. See how.

You may not know what a heart valve is — until it stops working right. It’s a common form of heart disease. Here’s an illustrated guide.

This is the cause of half of all heart disease deaths. Find out why here.

Not everyone gets heart disease. Some are born with it. Here are the facts on congenital heart disease.

Heart muscle disease — what doctors call cardiomyopathy — is as serious as it sounds. Here’s a brief overview.

Symptoms of DC –dilated cardiomyopathy — can appear at any age. Learn to recognize them here.

HCM — hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — is a thickening of the walls of the heart. Here’s a brief overview.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is the rarest form of heart-muscle disease. Here’s an overview.

Did you know that your heart is held by a little sac? That sac — the pericardium — can get infected. It’s called pericarditis or pericardial disease. Here’s more.

Fluid around the heart can be caused by various types of infection/inflammation or cancer, kidney disease or heart surgery. This fluid can impair heart function. Read more in this technical article written for doctors.

This inherited genetic defect weakens connective tissues — including those in the heart. Click here to learn more.

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.

Causes

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.

Prevention

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.

Hearth Disease

Heart disease includes conditions affecting the heart, such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. Keys to prevention include quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising.

Understanding Cholesterol Numbers

Cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years by everyone over the age of 20. The screening test that is usually performed is a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. Experts recommend that men aged 35 and older and women age 45 and older be routinely screened for lipid disorders. The lipoprotein profile includes:

  • LDL (low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “bad” cholesterol)
  • HDL (high density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “good” cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides (fats carried in the blood from the food we eat. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.)

Results of your blood test will come in the forms of numbers. Here is how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:

LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your chances of getting heart disease. That is why LDL cholesterol is referred to as “bad” cholesterol. The lower your LDL cholesterol number, the better it is for your health. The table below explains what the numbers mean.

LDL Cholesterol LDL-Cholesterol Category
Less than 100 Optimal
100 – 129 Near optimal/above optimal
130 – 159 Borderline high
160 – 189 High
190 and above Very high

If you have heart disease or blood vessel disease, some experts recommend that you should try to get your LDL cholesterol below 70. For people with diabetes or other multiple risk factors for heart disease, the treatment goal is to reach an LDL of less than 100.

HDL Cholesterol

When it comes to HDL cholesterol — “good” cholesterol — the higher the number, the better it is for your health. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the “bad” cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. The table below explains what the numbers mean.

HDL Cholesterol HDL-Cholesterol Category
60 and above High; Optimal; helps to lower risk of heart disease
Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. Here’s the breakdown.

Triglycerides Triglyceride Category
Less than 150 Normal
150 – 199 Borderline high
200 – 499 High
500 or higher Very high

Total Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200

Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 Desirable
200 – 239 Borderline High
240 and above High