This site provides basic information. For more information on Heart Disease, visit the National Institutes of Health at

To learn more about your personal chronic disease risk or for management strategies please contact your healthcare provider. For the most current information on chronic disease please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a broad term that includes several different types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which leads to heart attacks.

CAD occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries (which bring blood to the heart muscle), causing them to harden and narrow. This hardening and narrowing of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, and can reduce or block blood flow that supplies oxygen to the heart.

CAD causes heart attacks, which occur when the blood supply to the heart muscle is reduced or completely blocked. The first symptom of a heart attack is often angina, a chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Shortness of breath — with or without chest pain

CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms!

Heart Attack Materials


  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women
  • In 2007, 7% of Massachusetts adults aged 35 or older reported having heart disease, and 5% reported having had a heart attack

How Can I Reduce my Chances of Developing Heart Disease?

Although the risk of heart disease is sometimes affected by factors out of your control, such as family history and congenital conditions, there are things we can do to help prevent coronary heart disease:

  • Prevent or control high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Prevent or control diabetes
  • Avoid tobacco and secondhand smoke
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet

To Learn More About Stroke Visit these Sites

This information is provided by the Division of Prevention and Wellness within the Department of Public Health.