Answers FAQ

Heart Disease FAQs

Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

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Q:In the U.S., 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. True or false?


Heart disease causes the deaths of over half a million people in the U.S. annually, which totals a quarter of all deaths in men and women each year. Approximately three-quarters of a million U.S. heart deaths are from heart attack. Most of these are first-time heart attacks.

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Q:What is meant by the term myocardial infarction?

A:The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction.

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Q:What does sudden cardiac arrest mean for the heart?

A:When the heart suddenly stops beating, it is referred to as a sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest stops the blood from flowing to vital organs, including the brain.

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Q:What are symptoms of a heart attack?

A:The many symptoms of a heart attack include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, chest discomfort and/or pain, chest heaviness, nausea, vomiting, and pain that radiates to the jaw, arm, or throat.

Sometimes heart disease causes no symptoms at all.

People with the symptoms above persisting for longer than five minutes should seek emergency medical care after calling 9-1-1. Your doctor should be notified for symptoms lasting less than five minutes. Urgent evaluation and care is key in preventing injury and death.

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Q:Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women. True or false?


Heart disease and stroke are the leading killers of women, leading to a third of all deaths, which is more than all cancer deaths combined! Older women are more likely to have heart disease, however all women should be screened for prevention and early treatment.

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Q:What are risk factors for heart disease?

A:There are many risks for heart disease.

Risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, being overweight, family history of heart disease, lack of exercise, and age (over 55 years for women).

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Q:In the heart, a clogged artery causes a heart attack. What does a clogged brain artery cause?

A:A stroke.

When blood flow is significantly impaired to the brain a stroke occurs. A stroke that results from inadequate blood supply to the brain is referred to as an ischemic stroke. When a blood vessel to the brain breaks open and bleeds, it causes a hemorrhagic stroke.

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Q:When heart trouble is sensed, who waits at least two hours before help is called: Men or women?

A:Both men and women.

Unfortunately, Americans typically wait over two hours before calling for help when they have symptoms of heart disease. This can be a dangerous mistake.

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Q:The term "heart failure" means the heart has stopped working. True or false?


When the heart does not pump strongly enough to circulate blood throughout the body, the condition is referred to as heart failure. This can occur because of heart muscle weakness or inadequate filling of blood into the heart chambers.

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Q:People can be born with heart disease. True or false?


Congenital heart disease and congenital heart defects are heart problems that are present at birth. There are many forms of heart defects including abnormal design of the heart muscle, heart valves, and blood vessels into and out of the heart. Heart defects are common birth abnormalities, present in over 30,000 infants born annually.

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Q:Has heart disease ever been responsible for half of the deaths in America?


Heart disease and stroke were the causes of 50% of deaths in the U.S. by 1950. At that time, it was not fully understood what led to cardiovascular disease and heart deaths were common in people 50 years of age.

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Q:The most common type of heart disease in the U.S. is?

A:Coronary artery disease.

The most common form of heart disease in the U.S. is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD causes heart attacks because the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle is inadequate. Lifestyle changes and medications can reduce the risk of CAD.

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Q:What is the medical term for chest pain?


Angina refers to chest pain that is a result of poor blood supply and oxygen to the heart muscle.

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