Heart Disease

Heart graphic

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to conditions and diseases of the heart and blood vessels and includes coronary artery disease, angina, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

Since 1900, diseases of the heart have been the leading cause of death in the United States every year except 1918, the year of the influenza epidemic. Despite increased knowledge and health awareness, CVD continues to be the number one health threat in the United States and claims more lives each year than the next seven leading causes of death combined.

Heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the blood supply to the heart is reduced or stopped. This usually happens when the blood vessels around the heart become blocked due to a buildup of plaque on the walls of the vessel or when plaque breaks loose and travels through the blood until it becomes lodged in the vessel causing occlusion. When blood flow is reduced or discontinued for a significant amount of time, death to part or all of the heart muscle will result.

Congestive heart failure (CHF), is a condition where the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Heart damage due to a heart attack, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease or cardiomyopathy can result in CHF. Because the heart cannot work as efficiently as it should, people with CHF may become severely limited in their daily activities.

The warning signs of a heart attack are:

  • Chest discomfort.  Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.  Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.  May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs:  These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. If you are possibly having a heart attack, the first thing to do is call 9-1-1! 

Major modifiable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity/ Overweight
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet

For more information about heart disease, please download our 2012 Minnesota Heart Disease Fact Sheet. (pdf 163kb/2 pages)


Updated Monday, April 21, 2014 at 11:06AM