Heart Disease

Heart disease and stroke often result from a narrowing of the blood vessels. This narrowing can severely reduce or even stop blood flow to important organs like the heart or brain.

Blood carries oxygen and important nutrients to cells in the body. Without oxygen, heart muscle cells or brain cells begin to die. The patient can suffer permanent disability, and even death.

Leading causes of death in U.S.

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America, accounting for almost a third of all deaths in the country. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death.



Atherosclerosis occurs when deposits of fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the inner wall of a blood vessel. This buildup is called plaque. Plaque can block blood flow, causing strokes and heart attacks.

Atherosclerosis (ath'er-o-skleh-RO'sis) is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol and other deposits build up on the inner walls of blood vessels. Over time, this buildup narrows blood vessel openings, limiting the flow of blood and oxygen.

Who's At Risk?

Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes will increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. These risk factors tend to run in families. That's why it's so important to know your family medical history.

You may be at risk if you have a close relative (grandparent, parent, or sibling) who has had a heart attack or stroke before age 55. You may also be at risk if high blood pressure or high cholesterol run in your family

Reducing The Risk

You can reduce your risk by maintaining low cholesterol and blood pressure. The best way to lower both your cholesterol and your blood pressure is to avoid smoking tobacco. Maintaining a healthy body weight, participating in regular physical activity, and eating foods low in fat and cholesterol will also reduce your risk.

If you think you may be at risk for developing a cardiovascular disease, have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly by a doctor.

Learn more about blood pressure and cholesterol
Checking blood pressure