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What is heart disease?
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is the broad term for conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart muscle.

Key takeaways

  • Heart disease is a group of conditions that includes coronary heart disease, arrhythmias, heart failure and valve disease. 
  • Heart disease is a major cause of health problems and death in Australia, but it’s often preventable. 
  • Many types of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices, medications and / or surgery. 
5 min read
Heart disease is the broad term for conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. It includes:

  • Coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Heart failure 
  • Valve disease  
  • Arrhythmias (rhythm disorders)
Heart disease can have many causes. It occurs earlier and more frequently in men than women, and within certain ethnic groups. You may be born with heart disease, or have an increased risk of developing it due to your genetics.

Impact of heart disease

While heart disease death rates have fallen dramatically in Australia in the last 10 years, it’s still the leading cause of death. Heart disease can also lead to chronic health problems that require ongoing or life-long care.

However, many incidences of heart disease are preventable. That’s because the risk factors related to many heart disease conditions are related to your lifestyle choices, such as what you eat, how much you exercise and whether or not you smoke.

How can you prevent heart disease?

In many cases, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by improving your lifestyle choices. Here are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk: 

  • Eat well. See the Heart Foundation’s healthy eating tips, recipes and information to help protect your heart
  • Exercise regularly. Learn more about how much exercise you need, how to build more activity into your day-to-day life and more
  • Stop smoking. Find out more about smoking and your heart
  • See your doctor regularly. This is particularly important if you have conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, it can still be managed. With the right support, lifestyle changes and treatment, you can go on to live a full and active life.

Know your risks of heart disease

Heart disease overview

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