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Women: Know Your Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Step No. 1: Know What Heart Disease Is

There are a number of conditions that can be classified as heart disease, including heart attack, angina, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, valve problems, hypertension, vascular disease, arrhythmias or irregular heart beats, and sudden cardiac death, to list a few.

While there are many causes of heart disease, the problem often stems from blockages in the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood. These blockages develop from a combination of cholesterol and fats in the bloodstream. The result is a hard, calcified plaque that narrows the artery and restricts blood flow to the heart.

Over time, small to moderate blockages can deprive the heart of oxygen. The result can be heart failure.

In other cases, the plaques can crack or develop fissures, causing a blood clot to form. The artery becomes completely blocked, a condition that starves the heart of oxygen and actually causes it to dieheart to be oxygen-starved and die. The oxygen deficit is called ischemia, and can cause the pain many people know as angina. The death of part of the heart muscle is called myocardial infarction or heart attack. If the blockage occurs in one of the main arteries of the heart, the result can be sudden cardiac death.