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.

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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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease facts. Updated September 2020.

  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.

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  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