Mayo Clinic minute: What is heart disease?

3D Model of the heart by Dr. Matthew Bramlet. Credit: NIH

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans. And the risk of heart disease death differs by race and ethnicity.

But what is ? Dr. Sharonne N. Hayes, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, explains.

"The heart keeps us alive, so having heart disease can be a very important factor in how long we live," says Dr. Hayes.

Heart disease is a big term referring to any disease of the heart, says Dr. Hayes. The most common cause is coronary artery disease, which refers to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Over time, it can lead to narrowing of arteries and risk of a heart attack.

"A heart attack is when part of the heart muscle dies because it is deprived of or oxygen. And this can occur because it's a blockage due to a blood clot or plaque, or it can be due to the heart having to work really, really hard that outstrips the oxygen supply," says Dr. Hayes.

She says most is preventable.

"If you're smoking, stop. If you're a couch potato, get up and start taking 10- or 20-minute walks every day. Bump it up. Physical activity is medicine," says Dr. Hayes.

Know your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, exercise, and maintain normal weight. These are all ways to help reduce your risk of heart disease.

©2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Citation: Mayo Clinic minute: What is heart disease? (2020, February 7) retrieved 4 October 2023 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Mayo Clinic Minute: Capsaicin connection to heart


Feedback to editors