Learn About Your Heart...
Made Simple

By Nicolas Shammas, MD

A new, comprehensive sourcebook for
heart and vascular disease patients

Cardiovascular Health Topics

Statistics about Heart and Blood Vessel Diseases in the United States
Structure and Function of the Heart and Blood Vessels
Diseases of the Blood Vessels of the Heart
Surgical Therapies for the Cardiovascular Patient
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Diseases of the Blood Vessels of the Head and Neck
Strokes: How to Survive Them and How to Prevent Them
Valvular Heart Disease
Heart Rhythms: How to Recognize Them and Treat Them
Congestive Heart Failure
11. Understanding Cardiomyopathy, or Weak Heart Muscle
12. Children and Heart Disease
13. Diseases of the Pericardium
14. Systemic Illnesses, Infections and Drugs that Affect the Heart
15. Erectile Dysfunction: a Vascular Disease
16. Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
17. Heart Healthy Nutritional Tips
18. Cardiac Rehabilitation
19. Medications for Cardiovascular Disorders
20. Heart Tests You Need to Know
21. Learn What to Do in a Medical Emergency
22. How to Choose Your Doctor and Hospital
23. Medical Research and How You Can Get Involved
24. Taking the Next Step — A Few Community Resources to Help You Live More Healthfully
25. How Much Did You Learn from This Book: Take a Simple Test


Nicolas W. Shammas, MS, MD, FACC, FACP

What is heart disease?

"Heart disease" is a nonspecific term that includes all problems that affect the blood vessels, the muscle, and the electrical system of the heart.

The heart muscle requires an uninterrupted oxygenated blood supply in order to survive and continue to function normally. Blockages in the coronary arteries of the heart can reduce the blood supply to the heart. Fatty deposits called plaque generally cause these blockages. The interruption of the blood supply to the heart can be a sudden process with rupture of those plaques and the formation of a blood clot inside the blood vessel. This sudden interruption of the blood supply leads to a heart attack, or damage to the heart muscle.

How frequent is heart disease in the United States?

According to the National Center for Health Statistics,the number of adults in the United States with the diagnosis of heart disease is about 22 million people, or 10.9% of the total population.

Heart disease remains the number 1 killer in the United States, costing our healthcare budget approximately $300 billion annually. Half of all deaths in the United States are attributed to heart disease and cancer.

Heart disease alone accounted for approximately 700,000 deaths in 2001. On average, 246 deaths per 100,000 people were heart-related. Although men are more likely to have coronary artery disease than women, heart disease is the number 1 killer of women.

Heart disease is more prevalent with age and coexists in significant percentages of patients with documented history of stroke or blockages in the blood vessels that supply the lower legs or the brain.

Ethnicity also seems to play a role in the prevalence of heart disease. The incidence of heart disease in American Indians or Alaskan Natives was about 12%, compared to 9% in black adults or 5% in Asians. White adults have approximately an 11% incidence of heart disease.

Families with income below poverty level have been reported to have more incidences of heart disease than adult members of families with higher incomes.

What are the statistics of coronary disease in the United States?

In the United States, 900,000 people a year have a heart attack. Approximately 340,000 people will die from their heart attacks before they reach a hospital. This translates to about 930 Americans each day.

What is "sudden cardiac death"?

Sudden cardiac death occurs when electrical instability in the bottom chambers of the heart leads to a disorganized heart rhythm that renders the heart ineffective in pumping blood. If this electrical disturbance is not corrected within minutes of its occurrence, the victim of the heart attack dies.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain has been interrupted. Brain cell death occurs. Strokes can be caused by a blockage to the artery of the brain (ischemic) or by a bursting of 1 of the arteries in the brain (hemorrhagic). By far, the most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke.

How frequent are strokes in the United States?

More than 750,000 strokes occur in the United States every year. Stroke is the third leading cause of death after heart attacks and cancer. A third of patients who experience strokes are younger than 65 years of age. Plaques that obstruct blood flow to the blood vessels of the brain cause 35% to 40% of strokes. About 20% of strokes are caused by irregularity in the heart beat that affects the top chambers (atria). This is referred to as atrial fibrillation.

The younger the individual with a stroke, the more likely that a hole in the heart (called patent foramen ovale or atrial septal defect) is a contributing cause. It is estimated that 25,000 to 100,000 strokes a year might be attributed to this hole in the heart that separates the upper chambers of the heart.

More than 4.4 million people in the United States survive a stroke, and many of them have major disabilities.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure can be due either to weakness in the heart muscle or excess stiffness in the heart muscle.This results in an increase in the pressure inside the heart chambers leading to fluid in the lungs or the legs. The heart failure patient experiences fatigue, shortness of breath, occasional chest pain, and lack of energy to perform basic activities.

What are the statistics about heart failure in the United States?

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have classified heart failure into 4 stages.

People in Stage A have normal hearts but are at risk of developing heart failure. About 60 million people in the United States are in this stage.

Those in Stage B have weakness in their heart muscle but no symptoms. Approximately 10 million Americans fall into Stage B.

An individual in Stage C is symptomatic with activity because of heart muscle weakness. There are about 5 million people in Stage C.

Stage D is the most advanced stage of heart failure.In this stage, the patient experiences shortness of breath even when resting. There are over 250,000 people in this stage in the United States.

What are risk factors for heart disease?

Risk factors for heart failure include the presence of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, or a genetic tendency. Excess consumption of alcohol and the use of certain drugs also can weaken the heart muscle.

How is life expectancy among heart patients determined?

The strength of the heart muscle is a strong predictor of a person's survival—the weaker the heart, the shorter the life expectancy.

About 50% of patients with heart failure might die within 5 years of their diagnosis. A third of patients who live with heart failure are rehospitalized within 3 months. The overall cost of treating heart failure patients is twice that of all forms of cancer.

The life expectancy of patients with heart failure is generally worse than that of patients with lung, breast, or colon cancer.

© 2009 HMP Communications | All Rights Reserved | 83 General Warren Blvd, Malvern, PA 19355