About heart diseases and conditions

Learn about heart diseases and blood circulation conditions.

What are heart diseases and conditions?

Heart diseases and blood circulation conditions affect blood flow through the body, which include the heart and blood vessels to the:

  • brain
  • lungs
  • kidneys
  • other parts of your body

Heart diseases and conditions are the second leading cause of death among Canadians. They are caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • family history
  • lifestyle behaviours, which includes:
    • smoking
    • poor diet
    • drug abuse
    • physical inactivity
    • excessive alcohol use
  • the environment, which includes factors such as air pollution

Risk factors, symptoms and heart diseases

Risk factors and heart conditions include:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure

These conditions can lead to:

  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • angina (chest pain)
  • atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)

Types of heart disease include:

  • those caused by restricted blood flow in coronary arteries, such as coronary artery disease
  • stroke
  • ·peripheral vascular disease
  • ·heart failure
  • ·other types of heart disease, including:
    • cardiomyopathy
    • rheumatic heart disease
    • congenital heart disease

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in Canada and other industrialized countries. Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart.

Peripheral vascular disease

The term peripheral vascular refers to blood vessels that are far from the heart. This disease affects your blood circulation, but it is mainly in the legs. Patients usually complain of pain in their calves, especially when walking.

High blood pressure may be the cause of this disease, but it can also be caused by:

  • stress
  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • injury or infection

Heart failure

Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump blood as well as it should. As a result, the rest of the body does not receive enough blood. This can happen because of damage to the heart muscle from:

  • a heart attack
  • too much alcohol
  • high blood pressure
  • heart muscle disease

Patients with heart failure usually have shortness of breath and swollen legs.


Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. Over time, the heart gets weaker and is less able to:

  • pump blood through the body
  • maintain a normal rhythm

Rheumatic heart disease

Rheumatic heart disease begins with a bacterial infection during childhood called rheumatic fever. It affects joints and heart valves.

The heart problems appear many years later. The type of treatment will vary depending on the type of damage to the heart.   

Congenital heart disease

Some heart-related issues are considered congenital, such as atrial fibrillation. This means that you were born with the condition or disease.

The issue can be as simple as a small hole in the inside walls of the heart. But it can also be complex, affecting the way blood flows through the heart and lungs.

Some of these problems result in death if they are not immediately corrected through surgery. Other problems can cause disability and require that you have surgery later in life. Sometimes, you need many operations to fix the problem.

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