Fact Sheet - Heart Disease
Refers to any of several abnormalities of the heart and its function in maintaining blood circulation. Heart disease is the leading cause of deaths in Canada each year. Among the most common causes of heart disease are degenerative changes in the coronary blood vessels, infectious diseases, and congenital heart disease.

Disclaimer: The content in this page is meant for informative purposes only and it is not to be considered medical advice.? If you have any questions or feel that you may be experiencing any of the symptoms below please consult your family doctor or a qualified health care professional in your area.?

Causes of Heart Disease
  • Congenital defects result from abnormal development of the fetal heart,?commonly in the valves or septa. Such defects can be precipitated by environmental conditions in the uterus, such as the presence of the rubella virus, or they can be inherited.??
  • Infectious diseases acquired after birth, such as rheumatic fever, syphilis, and endocarditis, also damage the valves of the heart. In addition, the heart muscle itself can be affected:?
  • Hypertensive heart disease can cause it to enlarge, and it can become inflamed by rheumatic fever. Arteriosclerotic depositions in the coronary arteries result in the narrowing of these vessels, causing insufficient blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle, a condition known as coronary artery disease. The characteristic radiating chest pain, angina pectoris, is the most prominent symptom of this condition. Coronary arteries already narrowed by arteriosclerosis are made susceptible to blockage by a clot (coronary thrombosis), causing the death of the heart muscle supplied by the affected artery, a life-threatening event called a myocardial infarction , or heart attack.

Hypertensive, coronary, congenital, and other forms of cardiovascular disease, either singly or in combination, can lead to a state in which the heart is unable to expel sufficient blood for the metabolic demands of the body, ultimately resulting in congestive heart failure .

Disturbances in the normal heartbeat, called arrhythmias , can occur by themselves or in conjunction with other heart problems, for example infarction affecting the area of the heart that controls the heartbeat.

Risk Factors:


The risk factors for a heart attack can be divided into two categories : ones you can't change and ones you can.

Factors you can't control

  • A history of heart disease or stroke within your immediate family (grandparents, parents, siblings).

  • Age: Your risk of both heart disease and stroke rises as you get older.

  • Gender : Men are more likely to develop heart disease at an earlier age than women. Yet more women than men die from heart disease and stroke

Factors you can control

????????? Smoking:? Your chances of developing heart disease go way up if you smoke. See for more on how smoking affects your heart, and for tips on quitting.

????????? High blood pressure: High blood pressure is also known as "hypertension." It puts you at risk for both heart disease and stroke.

Have your blood pressure checked by your doctor, and ask what the figures mean. If your doctor prescribes medication to lower your blood pressure, be sure to take it as directed.

????????? High blood cholesterol: The most important things you can do to lower your blood cholesterol are:

????????? Limit the amount of fat in your diet.

????????? Increase the fibre in your diet.

????????? Be physically active.

Again, have your blood cholesterol checked by your doctor, and ask what the figures mean. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have your cholesterol checked. If you have medication to lower your blood cholesterol, be sure to take it as directed.

????????? Diabetes

About 5 of every 100 Canadians are affected by diabetes. This is equal to 1.5 million people. People with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease, but you can reduce this risk:

????????? Take your insulin (or oral drug) if prescribed, to keep your blood sugar level under control.

????????? Manage your diet carefully.

????????? Be physically active regularly.

????????? Maintain the body weight that's right for you.

  • Inactive lifestyle

The heart is like every other muscle in your body. It needs regular exercise to stay healthy. You can help reduce your risk with regular physical activity (light to moderate).

Try to be active 30-60 minutes a day, every day of the week. Build physical activities into your daily routine. Just add it up in periods of 10 minutes each throughout the day.?

  • Overweight

An excess of body fat doesn't just increase your risk of heart disease. It also puts you at risk for diabetes and some types of cancer. To achieve a healthy body weight, it works best to combine:

????????? regular moderate physical activity, and

????????? a healthy balanced diet that is high in whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and low in fat.

?????Women's Watch

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in Canada. Over one in three women die from heart disease or stroke. This is slightly higher than the number of men. On average women live longer than men. Women tend to be older when they have a heart attack, and often are more likely to die from it.

  • Women are much more likely to develop heart disease after menopause. The risk goes up because their bodies don't produce as much estrogen, a hormone that protects the heart and blood vessels. If you have gone through menopause, you may want to talk with your doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

  • Women who smoke are at least twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke. For those who smoke and take birth control pills, the risk goes up

    • 30 times if they are under 35, and

    • as much as 400 times for those 35 or older.


?(1)? How can I prevent a heart attack?, Fact Sheet, Canadian Health Network,


Selected resources:

American Heart Association

National Center Mailing Addresses
American Heart Association
National Center
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231

Website: www.americanheart.org

Health Canada

Provides a variety of readily accessible information sources such as research, fact sheets, and programs.

Heart Disease Website:??http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/diseases/heart.html


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada provides resources, information, and educational tools about heart disease in Canada. 

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