A heart

Heart Disease

Heart disease is a term used to describe a constellation of conditions that can affect the heart and/or its valves, vessels, structure, electrical system, or coronary arteries.

Conditions that fall within the scope of heart disease include cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure, heart failure, coronary artery disease, valve disorders, and congenital heart defects, among others.

Though each disease affects the heart differently, the ultimate problem with all varieties of heart disease is that, in one way or another, they can disrupt the vital pumping action of the heart.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes heart disease?

    The causes of heart disease vary depending on the exact condition you've been diagnosed with. Some may be congenital (from birth), and others may be unknown, but there are several lifestyle factors that increase your risk of developing the disease: poor diet, low activity level, excess weight, smoking, and whether other chronic conditions you may have are well-managed.

  • How can you prevent heart disease?

    There's a lot you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, and working with your doctor to perform a formal risk assessment is the first step. Then, start making small changes to your lifestyle to reduce each risk category, like quitting smoking, starting an exercise regimen, and eating a heart-healthy diet. Making as many changes as possible can improve your chances of prevention.

  • Is heart disease genetic?

    While some may have a genetic predisposition for developing a heart disease, the most common type, coronary artery disease (CAD), is more often due to lifestyle choices and/or environmental factors rather than genetics alone. However, some of the genetic mutations predisposing a person to CAD may arise without being inherited—known as epigenetic changes, which can turn genes on and off.

  • Is heart disease curable?

    While there is no single cure for heart disease, there are many treatment options available to help you live a long, full life. Specific treatments depend on the condition you've been diagnosed with, but most depend heavily on lifestyle modifications. In the event that these don't help, medications can reduce your risk, or your doctor may also talk to you about surgery.

Key Terms

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The Heart's Chambers and Valves
Illustration of man and woman showing the location of their hearts
Heart Disease: Men vs. Women
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Congenital Heart Disease: Overview and More
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Heart Bypass Surgery: Recovery
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Heart Bypass Surgery: How to Prepare
heart bypass surgery long term care
Heart Bypass Surgery: Long-Term Care
SPECT Scanner.
SPECT Scan: Uses, Side Effects, Procedure, Results
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Tetralogy of Fallot
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Examining the Link Between Heart and Kidney Disease
Mediterranean diet
Gut Bacteria and Heart Disease Treatment
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Transient Ischemic Attack: Overview and More
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Symptoms and Causes of Myocarditis
Images from an echocardiogram
Hibernating Heart Muscles: What Happens?
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Framingham Risk Calculator and Cholesterol
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Kawasaki Disease and Cardiac Complications
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Blue Lips: Characteristics, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
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Pericarditis Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
The Link Between Migraines and Heart Disease
Migraines and Cardiovascular Disease: How They're Linked
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The Basics of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
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How Cardiac Symptoms Are Different in Women
Man having chest pain.
Overview of Pulmonary Infarction
doctor and patient
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy: Overview and More
Anesthetist checking an external heart monitor.
Atherosclerosis, Arteriosclerosis, and Heart Surgery
Female doctor checking on a patient
An Overview of Atherosclerosis
Broken Heart Syndrome
What Is Broken Heart Syndrome?
Doctor performing heart checkup
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Overview and More
How Much Do You Really Know About Heart Disease?
Doctor examining senior man
Subclavian Steal Syndrome
Woman holding chest
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of Cardiac Tamponade
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Why Pulmonary Edema Is a Problem
Restenosis After Angioplasty and Stenting
peripheral artery disease
Overview of Peripheral Artery Disease
newborn intensive care
Ebstein's Anomaly: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Sitting in office, doctor has serious conversation with patient
Heart Cancer: Understanding Cardiac Tumors
Illustration of a heart monitor made to look like a virtual reality display in front of a man
Calculating Your Heart Age vs Chronological Age
Doctor talking to patient about coronary disease
How Coronary Artery Disease Is Treated
Blood cells
Coronary Artery Disease: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications
woman talking to doctor
When Should Stents Be Used in Coronary Artery Disease?
peripheral artery disease
Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosis
peripheral artery disease rehabilitation
Coronary Artery Disease: Causes and Risk Factors
Older woman with chest pain
Microvascular Coronary Artery Disease
Cardiac catheterization
How Does Brachytherapy Work?
Coronary Arteries illustration
Why the Anatomy of Coronary Arteries Matters
Clinical research at GHICL, Lille, France. Cardiology department. Cardiac stress test performed under scan and ECG (electrocardiogram) control.
Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) Symptoms and Diagnosis
Coronary Artery Erosions in Women
Patient having an x-ray examination
Coronary Artery Calcium Scans - Are They Useful?
Scan of brain
Anticoagulation and Stroke Prevention
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Cryptogenic Stroke: Stroke of Unknown Cause
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Hypertensive Heart Disease: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment
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Americans Struggle With Weight Loss for Heart Health
Digital illustration of human heart
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Increased Heart Disease Risk
Symptoms of Endothelial Dysfunction
What Genes Can Tell Us About Heart Disease
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5 Lesser-Known Risk Factors for Heart Attack
Gut bacteria and heart health
TMAO and Gut Bacteria's Role in Heart Health
weighing scale
Heart Disease, Obesity, and Weight Loss: What to Know
Doctor and patient
Constrictive Pericarditis Overview: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
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High-Risk Drinking and Heart Problems
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How Does Thyroid Disease Affect the Heart?
Cardiac Risk With COX-2 and NSAID Drugs
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Thériault S, Lali R, Chong M, Velianou JL, Natarajan MK, Paré G. Polygenic contribution in individuals with early-onset coronary artery disease. Circ Genom Precis Med. 2018;11(1):e001849. doi:10.1161/CIRCGEN.117.001849

  3. Duan L, Liu C, Hu J, et al. Epigenetic mechanisms in coronary artery disease: The current state and prospects. Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2018;28(5):311-319. doi:10.1016/j.tcm.2017.12.012

  4. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Arrhythmia.

  5. Kobiyama K, Ley K. Atherosclerosis. Circ Res. 2018;123(10):1118–1120. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313816

  6. American Heart Association. Understand your risk for excessive blood clotting.

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  8. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Infective endocarditis.

Additional Reading