What is heart disease?
Heart disease refers to a number of conditions. Hardening of your arteries, also called coronary artery disease(CAD), is just one of these conditions. Other types of heart disease include arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), heart failure, heart valve disease, heart muscle disease, and congenital heart disease. Coronary artery disease, however, is the most common type of heart disease. Heart disease is a significant cause of death and is a major health concern in Canada. Overall, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, but for women, heart disease is the leading cause of death.
What are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

If you are having a heart attack, the sooner you get treatment the better. That's why it's important to recognize the signs of a heart attack, which include

  • chest pain or discomfort (burning, fullness, pressure or tightness)
  • discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, or back
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • cool and clammy skin
  • fear or anxiety

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.

What should a bystander do if they think someone is having a heart attack?
If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Some conditions as well as some lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. The most important modifiable risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, family history and obesity. In principle, all persons can take steps to lower their risk for heart disease.
Is Heart Disease Treatable?
Although heart disease is a leading cause of death in Canada, over the last decade the incidence of heart disease has decreased. This is likely due to improved prevention, detection, and treatment. If you are diagnosed with heart disease, your doctor will work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan that will involve lifestyle changes and possibly medications or surgical procedures
What can you do to reduce or prevent your risk?

Persons can take steps to lower their risk of developing heart disease by preventing or treating and controlling high blood pressure, preventing or treating and controlling high blood cholesterol, by not using tobacco, by preventing or controlling diabetes, and by maintaining adequate physical activity, weight, and a healthy diet. Persons being treated for conditions or risk factors should follow the guidance of their health care providers If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, there are steps you can take to lower your risk for heart disease.

  • Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, closely monitor your blood sugar levels. Talk with your health care provider about treatment options.
  • Take your medicine. If you're taking medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • Talk with your health care provider. You and your doctor can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease. Discuss your treatment plan regularly and bring a list of questions to your appointments.
Someone in my family died of a heart attack. Will the same thing happen to me?
Not necessarily, but it does increase your risk of heart disease. Your family history is one risk factor you can't change, but if you live a healthy lifestyle by eating well, exercising regularly, and not smoking, it will help control the risk factors you can change and will help reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack. If you have a family history of heart disease or a heart attack, talk to your doctor about other risk factors you may have and how best to reduce your risk.
Will taking ASA prevent a heart attack?
There is very good evidence that taking acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) reduces the risk of having a second heart attack. However, there is some controversy around whether taking ASA helps prevent a first heart attack. The controversy lies around the fact the ASA has side effects and can increase the risk of bleeding, especially from the stomach or intestines. Talk to your doctor about whether taking ASA to prevent at heart attack is right for you. Your doctor is in the best position to weigh the benefits and risks of taking ASA. It's best not to take ASA to prevent a heart attack unless it has been recommended by your doctor.
Is it okay to exercise if you have heart disease?
Before starting any exercise program, you should talk to your doctor to make sure you exercise safely.However, most people with heart disease can and should exercise. Regular exercise can help make your heart stronger, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help you lose weight. Your doctor may suggest aerobic exercise such as walking or resistance exercises such as weight training. Your doctor may also recommend that you work with a physiotherapist or exercise specialist to develop a safe and effective exercise program. Keep in mind that exercising should be something you enjoy doing!
What is heart failure?
Heart failure is a type of heart disease where your heart does not pump blood efficiently to the rest of your body. Your heart may not be able to fill up with enough blood or your heart may not be able pump with enough force to get blood to the rest of your body. Heart failure is primarily managed with medications that help the heart work more efficiently. It's also important that you do what you can to control your risk factors for heart disease.
What is coronary artery disease or CAD?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. With coronary artery disease, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle narrow due to the build-up of plaque. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol and other substances. Over time, the blood vessels narrow and harden and the heart may not get enough oxygen. This can cause angina (chest pain). If the plaque ruptures or tears, a blood clot can form to repair it, and this can completely block the blood vessel and cause a heart attack.
What is an arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm that is caused by abnormal electrical activity within the heart that causes the heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly. Most arrhythmias are benign (not harmful), but some types are serious and require treatment with medication or a pacemaker.