Heart Disease

An illustration of a heart.Heart disease is a general term referring to a variety of diseases and conditions that affect a person’s heart. Some of the more common heart diseases include coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, vascular disease, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), valve diseases and congenital heart defects.

The heart is a complex organ and depending on the area of the heart affected, the symptoms of heart disease may vary.

Heart disease may affect a person’s:

  • Blood vessels (like coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and peripheral vascular disease)
  • Heart rhythm (arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, tachycardia or bradycardia)
  • Heart muscle (including cardiomyopathy)
  • Valves (such as aortic stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation)

Heart disease may also be the result of a defect present since birth (congenital heart disease) or an infection (including pericarditis, myocarditis or endocarditis).

The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), a narrowing of one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Buildup of fat and cholesterol inside the vessel causes this blockage, which leads to the narrowing arteries. Left unchecked, this can lead to heart attack or death.

Heart Disease Prevention

The first step in preventing heart disease is knowing the risk factors and determining your susceptibility to this dangerous condition. BayCare strives to educate members of the Tampa Bay area community about making lifestyle adjustments to minimize the chances of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, vascular disease, and coronary artery disease. However, behavioral risk factors like obesity and smoking are not the only threats when it comes to heart disease. Certain conditions and genetic components can also play roles in the development of this silent killer.

  • Health Conditions – Certain health conditions can greatly increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease. High LDL cholesterol levels (200 or above is too high), high blood pressure (140/90 or above is too high), and diabetes can all contribute to cardiovascular problems. Regular screenings for these conditions can help reduce your risk.
  • Genetics – Heredity plays a role in how likely it is for someone to develop heart disease. If more than one family member has the same type of heart disease early in life, you should consider yourself at increased risk. Other indications of genetic heart disorders include sudden cardiac death, heart failure, and abnormal heart palpitations at a young age.

BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cardiovascular services for patients throughout the Tampa Bay area. We have a strong commitment to educating members of the community about maintaining the health of their hearts and preventing the onset of cardiovascular conditions like heart disease.

Currently, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both the United States and in Florida, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Heart disease prevention can take many forms, but the first step is committing to long-term lifestyle changes that include:

  • Diet – A heart-healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins. Avoid foods that are processed and contain high levels of sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and LDL cholesterol. Opt for monounsaturated fats and foods with HDL cholesterol like olive oil, nuts and avocados.
  • Exercise – Stay active by walking, jogging, cycling, hiking, swimming or doing other aerobic exercises. Exercise improves circulation, boosts energy levels, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the cardiovascular system so it can work more efficiently.
  • Not smoking – Smoking harms the heart and blood vessels by reducing HDL cholesterol, restricting the blood vessels, reducing oxygen levels in the blood and increasing blood pressure. These factors increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity contributes to developing cardiovascular disease. Exercising regularly, eating a Mediterranean diet and controlling portion sizes can all help to combat obesity and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
  • Keeping your numbers in check – Periodically monitor your blood pressure, in addition to your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Normal blood pressure should be about 120-139/80-89; anything higher is cause for concern. Cholesterol levels above 200 are too high.

Determine Your Risk for Heart Disease Today

Your primary care physician can help determine your risk for heart disease. To request a physician referral to a primary care physician or cardiac specialist, please call us or complete a physician referral form. Our Customer Service Center is available to help you 24/7.

For more information or a physician referral, call (855) 233-0888 or find a doctor near you.

BayCare also offers many resources, including a wide selection of educational classes and events in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Lutz, Riverview, Winter Haven, New Port Richey, Plant City and Dunedin to help you learn more about what you can do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease