Definition and Overview
“Heart disease,” often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease” (CVD), describes several conditions affecting the heart, the blood vessels that nourish the heart (the coronary arteries), and the arteries that distribute blood to the brain, legs, and everywhere in-between. Heart disease afflicts or kills as many as one in two adults in the United States and other developed countries. 
Although some types of heart disease have an unknown cause or are inherited at birth, the good news is that the most common conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure can be largely prevented by making healthy dietary and lifestyle choices.
- Compelling data from the Nurses’ Health Study show that women who followed a healthy lifestyle pattern were 80% less likely to develop coronary artery disease over a 14-year period compared to all other women in the study. 
- In a companion study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, men also reaped similar benefits from making healthy choices. 
- A healthy lifestyle pattern may prevent more than 50% of deaths due to ischemic strokes, 80% of sudden cardiac deaths,  and 75% of all deaths due to cardiovascular disease. 
What’s a “healthy lifestyle pattern?”
In this section:
Learn more about the many symptoms of heart disease, how you can assess your risk for developing heart disease, and four key lifestyle steps you can take to reduce your risk.
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- Chiuve SE, McCullough ML, Sacks FM, Rimm EB. Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men: benefits among users and nonusers of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive medications. Circulation. 2006;114:160-7.
- Chiuve SE, Rexrode KM, D. S, Logroscino G, Manson JE, Rimm EB. Primary prevention of stroke by healthy lifestyle. Circulation. 2008;118:947-54.
- Chiuve SE, Fung TT, Rexrode KM, et al. Adherence to a low-risk, healthy lifestyle and risk of sudden cardiac death among women. JAMA. 2011;306:62-9.
- van Dam RM, Li T, Spiegelman D, Franco OH, Hu FB. Combined impact of lifestyle factors on mortality: prospective cohort study in US women. BMJ. 2008;337:a1440.
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