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What is Heart Disease?
In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack.1 CAD is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD is caused by a process called atherosclerosis, which is the term for the process of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood) building up in the inner lining of an artery. The buildup that results is called plaque. These plaques can also burst, causing a blood clot leading to a heart attack. Atherosclerosis develops slowly and silently, over decades. It is often not diagnosed until it causes a heart attack because there are usually no symptoms until an artery is so clogged that the blood supply to the organs and tissues is affected.1,2
Heart disease can also include several other types of conditions3 among them:
- Acute coronary syndrome
- Aortic aneurysm and dissection
- Atrial fibrillation
- Congenital heart defects
- Heart failure
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, 2019. Coronary artery disease (CAD). Retrieved December 3, 2019, from: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm
- American Heart Association, 2017. Atherosclerosis. Retrieved February 3, 2020. From: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/atherosclerosis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, 2019. Other Conditions Related to Heart Disease. Retrieved February 3, 2020, from: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/other_conditions.htm