Cardiovascular Health • Cardiovascular Network of Canada — CANet

Cardiovascular Health

The term “cardiovascular health” refers to the health of your heart and all your blood vessels.

Heart and blood vessel conditions can cause cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease.

The risk factors for cardiovascular diseases may be inherited, but many can be prevented or controlled. Several risks associated with cardiovascular disease are smoking or other tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Heart Disease

Also known as ischemic heart disease or coronary heart disease (CHD), heart disease refers to the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries that could lead to a heart attack, heart failure, or death.

Heart disease is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada.

Most common types of heart disease:


Heart arrhythmias occur when the heart beats too rapidly, too slowly, or irregularly.

The heart’s electrical system controls its rhythm and allows it to beat. A malfunction of the electrical system causes arrhythmias.

The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation or AF.

Types of Arrhythmia

Supraventricular arrhythmias

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Atrial flutter
  • Atrial tachycardia
  • Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT)
  • Atrioventricular reeentrant tachycardia
  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome

Ventricular arrhythmias

  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Premature ventricular beats (PVCs)
  • Torsades de pointes

Inherited arrhythmias

  • Brugada syndrome
  • Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT)
  • Long QT syndrome


  • Heart block
  • Sick sinus syndrome

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease is a common heart condition. The major blood vessels that supply the heart (coronary arteries) struggle to send enough blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. Cholesterol deposits (plaques) in the heart arteries and inflammation are usually the cause of coronary artery disease.

Signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease occur when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. If you have coronary artery disease, reduced blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. A complete blockage of blood flow can cause a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease often develops over decades. Symptoms may go unnoticed until a significant blockage causes problems or a heart attack occurs. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery disease may also be called coronary heart disease.

Coronary artery disease signs and symptoms include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Fatigue
  • Heart attack
  • Shortness of breath

Heart Attack

Heart attacks occur when parts of the heart are not getting enough blood.

An artery of the heart suddenly closes due to plaque, made up of fats, calcium, and cholesterol that has built up over time. A blood clot (thickened blood) can also block your arteries, which supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to your heart and the rest of your body. When the artery closes, the supply to the heart suddenly decreases. This lack of oxygen causes damage to the heart.

Emergency medical care is needed immediately in these cases.

The longer the heart goes without proper blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.

Heart Failure

Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart cannot pump enough blood to deliver oxygen to other organs. It doesn’t mean that your heart has completely stopped beating or that it is about to stop working.

A weak heart has a reduced ability to pump blood. Blood and fluid can back up into the lungs, and fluid can build up in the legs, ankles, and feet, causing swelling and fatigue.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Feeling tired or weak much of the time
  • Shortness of breath when performing routine activities
  • Trouble breathing when you lie down
  • Weight gain coupled with swelling in your legs, feet, ankles or stomach

Heart failure risk factors include:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Diet high in fats, cholesterol or sodium
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking or other tobacco use
  • Valvular heart disease

DISCLAIMER — All information contained in this webpage is NOT intended as specific medical advice for any individual with a medical condition similar to that described herein.

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