You know how important your heart is, so it's no wonder people worry when they hear someone has heart problems. Heart disease, also called cardiovascular (say: kar-dee-oh-vas-kyoo-lur) disease, mainly affects older people and means that there are problems with the heart and blood vessels. You might know someone who has cardiovascular disease because 61 million Americans have some form of it. This disease includes a variety of problems, including high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, chest pain, heart attacks, and strokes. What Is Heart Disease?
The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system. Through the body's blood vessels, the heart pumps blood to all of the body's cells. The blood carries oxygen, which the cells need. Cardiovascular disease is a group of problems that occur when the heart and blood vessels aren't working the way they should. Here are some of the problems that go along with cardiovascular disease: * Arteriosclerosis (say: ar-teer-ee-oh-skluh-row-sus): also called hardening of the arteries, arteriosclerosis means the arteries become thickened and are no longer as flexible. * Atherosclerosis (say: ah-thuh-row-skluh-row-sus): a buildup of cholesterol and fat that makes the arteries narrower so less blood can flow through. Those buildups are called plaque. * Angina (say: an-jy-nuh): people with angina feel a pain in the chest that means the heart isn't getting enough blood. * Heart attack: when a blood clot or other blockage cuts blood flow to a part of the heart. * Stroke: when part of the brain doesn't get enough blood due to a clot or a burst blood vessel.
How Do You Get Heart Disease?
Heart disease isn't contagious — you can't catch it like you can the flu or a cold. Instead, certain things increase a person's chances of getting cardiovascular disease. Doctors call these things risk factors. Some of these risk factors a person can't do anything about, like being older and having...