Coronary heart disease is a disease of the vessels that supply the heart with blood and oxygen. These vessels can become narrowed or obstructed, preventing the heart from receiving blood and oxygen. This happens as a result of fatty plaque buildup in the vessel, called atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack.

Coronary heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes any disease of the heart and blood vessels. And coronary heart disease is the most common type of cardiovascular disease.

In 2003, despite a continuing decline that has been under way for the past three decades, cardiovascular disease took more lives than the next four leading causes of death combined, including cancer, accidents, diabetes, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

Almost two out of every five deaths in the United States are attributable to cardiovascular disease. In fact, since 1900, cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States each year except 1918 (the year in which a flu pandemic killed almost 700,000 Americans and at least 20 million people worldwide).

These are frightening statistics, but they're statistics that you can't afford to disregard. Coronary heart disease is not a part of growing older that can be avoided, nor is it something that can be ignored until you're over 65. Indeed, almost half of all heart attacks occur in people under the age of 65. And heart attacks kill approximately 40 percent of people who have them. So it's important to start making changes now that will decrease your risk of ever having a heart attack.

Start here to learn what you need to know about coronary heart disease.