What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke.  Other heart conditions affecting your heart's muscle, valves or rhythm are also considered forms of heart disease.  A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving your brain of oxygen.  Heart disease and stroke are second only to cancer as the leading cause of death in Kentucky.  View the Kentucky State fact sheet here.  Explore the Kentucky Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Program for tips on how to prevent heart disease and stroke here.  Heart attack tools and resources are also here.    Can you recognize a heart attack or stroke?  There are support groups for people who have had a heart attack or stroke. 

Gender issues:  Stroke symptoms in women can be different from men's and include unusual traits like hiccups, hallucination and agitation, as well as standard symptoms of confusion, weakness, numbness, nausea and fainting.  Heart attack symptoms in women also differ from those of men.  Men typically feel chest pain while women feel discomfort in their neck, jaw, back and arm. According to a study at the Cleveland Clinic, women are more likely to get inaccurate results from traditional treadmill stress tests because the scoring system was developed based on experiments done in middle-aged men. Dr Merz of Cedars-Sinai Hospital advises women to request tests to identify coronary microvascular dysfunction.


Take a test here to see if you are at risk for cardiac arrest.

Coronary artery disease begins when hard cholesterol is deposited within a coronary artery leading to blockage of one or more arteries supplying blood to the heart.

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries.

High blood pressure is a condition in which the force of the blood against the walls of the artery is too high.  If untreated, it can cause health problems.

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition where the heart does not pump blood as well as it should.

Arrhythmia is the improper beating of the heart, whether irregular, too fast or too slow.

Sick sinus syndrome is a type of arrhythmia.  It is a group of signs and symptoms that tells doctors that the SA node is not working properly.  The SA node sends out electrical impulses at a certain rate.  If it is not working properly, the heart may beat too fast or too slow.

A pacemaker is a small device implated in the chest to help control heart rhythms with low-energy electrical impulses.

Peripheral artery disease is a condition in which narrowed blood vessels reduce the flow of blood to the limbs.

Rheumatic heart disease is damage to one or more heart valves after an episode of rheumatic fever.  It is 100% preventable by treating strep infections with antibiotics.

An aneurysm is a weakness in a blood vessel that balloons and fills with blood.  They can occur anywhere in the body.  A brain aneurysm can be fatal if it ruptures.

Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Symptoms can be different for women.

Mitral valve prolapse is the improper closure of the valve between the heart's upper and lower left chambers.

Heart murmurs are extra sounds during the heartbeat cycle that can be heard through a stethoscope.

Lymphedema is swelling in the arm or leg caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system.

Varicose veins are gnarled, enlarged veins, usually appearing in the legs and feet.

DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot that forms, usually in the legs.  DVT is very serious because the clots can break loose and travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary embolism is a blockage of one of the arteries in the lungs, usually by a blood clot.  These are life threatening and can be prevented by exercising and wearing compression stockings to prevent DVT.

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart.

***The information provided on the KCHC website is provided as an informational resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

***Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. The KCHC expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability for any damages, loss, or injury whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information received from the KCHC website. KCHC does not endorse specifically any information item, test, treatment, or procedure mentioned in the KCHC website.