Heart Disease - Minnesota Department of Health

Heart Disease

What is heart disease?

  • Heart Disease includes a number of conditions which affect blood flow to and functioning of the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease.
  • A myocardial infarction, also known as heart attack, occurs when the vessels supplying blood to the heart become blocked. Heart muscle tissue is deprived of oxygen, resulting in tissue death.

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

Someone having a heart attack may experience only one, or several of these warning signs:

  • 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.

What do I do if I am having a heart attack?

If you are possibly having a heart attack, it is an emergency. Call 9-1-1 immediately!


What are the risk factors for heart disease that cannot be changed? 1,2

Age: About 4 out of 5 heart disease deaths are in people older than 65 years of age. Unfortunately, the cumulative effects of aging increase heart disease risk.

Sex: Heart disease is more prevalent in men than in women, and men are at greater risk before age 65. After age 65, this difference largely disappears. Overall, men die from heart disease at a 60% higher rate than women.

Race/Ethnicity: Heart disease is the number one cause of death nationally. African Americans die from heart disease at a 30% higher rate than whites, but American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics all die of heart disease at lower rates than whites.

Family History: Several studies have shown that heart disease risk is increased for individuals with family members who have heart disease. This risk factor of “family history” includes not only the genetic inheritance of heart disease risk factors, but also the sharing of cultural, environmental, and lifestyle factors within families that increase risk of heart disease.

What are the risk factors for heart disease that can be changed? 2

High Blood Cholesterol: Increasing levels of total cholesterol are associated with higher rates of ischemic heart disease. However, low HDL- cholesterol is also an important risk factor for heart disease, particularly for men. Approximately 25% of adults in Minnesota report they have high cholesterol (2017 data). 3

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease. About 69% of people who have a first heart attack have high blood pressure.2 Controlling hypertension (through increased physical activity, improved diet and nutrition, quitting smoking, and medications) is associated with a significant reduction in heart disease incidence. Approximately 24% of adults in Minnesota report they have high blood pressure (2017 data).3

Cigarette Smoke: Smoking doubles to triples the risk of dying from coronary heart disease. In addition, over 35,000 non-smokers in the US die from coronary heart disease each year due to environmental exposure to tobacco smoke.4 In 2017, 14.5% of Minnesota adults were current smokers.3

Physical Inactivity: Several studies have shown that physical inactivity increases the risk of heart disease anywhere from 1.5 to 2.4 times – comparable to the risk observed in high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, or cigarette smoking. Approximately 21% of Minnesota adults get the recommended amount of aerobic and strength exercise (2017), and 25% of adults in Minnesota are not physically active at all (2017).3

Overweight and Obesity: A growing body of evidence is showing that heart disease risk increases with increased weight. In Minnesota, 65% of adults are overweight, including more than 28% who are obese (2017).3

Diabetes: The risk for heart disease is two to four times higher among people with diabetes. People with diabetes can lower their risk of heart disease by controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Approximately 7% of adults in Minnesota have been diagnosed with diabetes, but approximately of one-third of diabetics are unaware they have the disease (2017).3

1 CDC. Deaths: Final Data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports 2011; 60 (3)
2 Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2017 Update: A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017
3 Minnesota Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Age-adjusted prevalence.
4 MMWR, Vol 54, No. 25, 2005, CDC.

Updated Thursday, 30-May-2019 11:19:38 CDT