Heart Disease


According to the American Heart Association, Heart Disease is any disease that affects the heart and blood vessels. Heart Disease is currently the leading cause of death in the U.S. Multiple conditions fall under the classification of Heart Disease, including atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease (CAD), arrhythmia, heart valve problems, stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries that begins with an injury or tear to an artery wall that then becomes a repository for plaque and can lead to CAD. Eventually, the plaque will build up, break off and travel to other areas that can result in blockage of the artery.

A heart attack occurs when a blood clot is formed in an artery that supplies the heart (coronary artery). The area of the heart that is no longer receiving oxygen will become damaged and may stop working.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. Ischemic stroke is when a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked by a blood clot. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts usually due to high blood pressure.

Heart failure is when the heart muscle grows weak. It will continue to beat, but the efficiency of the heart to supply the oxygen that is needed in other areas of the body is greatly reduced.

Arrhythmia is when the electric signals that cause the heart to beat are not firing properly, resulting in a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow or erratic. This may result in the heart not pumping efficiently.

Heart valve problems are when there is an abnormality in the valve structure or function. This allows blood to leak into other heart chambers and interferes with the pumping of the heart.


Unfortunately, the early stages of Heart Disease are asymptomatic, and it is not until an event (heart attack or stroke) occurs that a person is aware they have Heart Disease.


There are risk factors that, if present, increase your chance of developing Heart Disease, including family history, age and gender. Other risk factors include smoking, uncontrolled Diabetes, Hypertension (high blood pressure), physical inactivity, Obesity and high LDL cholesterol levels.


Maintaining a healthy diet and the appropriate weight, along with regular exercise, can help you avoid heart issues. Controlling your Diabetes and Hypertension as well as not smoking are critical. Should you develop Heart Disease, there are medications available to help lower your cholesterol, pacemakers to help with arrhythmia, as well as surgical procedures to remove or open clogged arteries and repair damaged valves. Your Esse Health doctor will provide you with the latest information, advice on nutrition and exercise, warning signs to look for, and what treatment options are best for your specific condition, including our Esse Health Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) program. Many Esse Health doctors have been recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) for providing high quality, evidence-based medical care to their Heart Disease and Stroke patients. Talk to your Esse Health doctor about how to avoid and/or control your Heart Disease.

Click here to learn about the different heart failure zones and a low sodium eating plan!