Heart Health Awareness

What is Heart Disease?

February is American Heart Month

There are many different types of heart disease that affect your heart and blood vessels. The most common in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood supply to the heart. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of heart disease, risk factors, and how to live a heart-healthy life.

Show your Heart some love

#1 leading cause of death globally is heart disease

17.9 million people die each year from heart disease

48% of Americans have at least 1 of the 3 key risk factors for heart disease

What are the Types of Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to numerous types of heart problems. Each type has its own symptoms and treatments. The types of heart disease are coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, heart valve disease, cardiomyopathy, and arrhythmia.

Coronary Artery Disease

About 18.2 million American adults suffer from coronary artery disease, making it the most common heart disease in the United States. It occurs when there is build-up of plaque in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The plaque build-up narrows or blocks your coronary arteries, limiting the amount of blood that can reach your heart. The symptoms of coronary artery disease vary from person to person, but in most cases, it is a silent disease. Usually, people find out they have coronary artery disease once they have chest pain or a heart attack. Take a look at the “Heart Attack” card to know the symptoms.

Heart Attack

A heart attack happens when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. The lack of blood flow and oxygen can cause damage to the heart and can lead to death. It is important to know the symptoms of a heart attack since it can be life-threatening.
Chest pain and tightness that can radiate to other areas of your body (neck, back, or arms), fatigue, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, nausea, anxiety, sweating, and lightheadedness.
*Women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms than men (fatigue, shortness of breath. discomfort in throat, jaw, neck, arms, back, and stomach).

Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Heart failure can gradually develop over time and be a chronic condition or it can be an acute condition, where it develops suddenly, and symptoms can appear without warning.
Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in legs, ankles, and feet, irregular heartbeat, reduced ability to exercise, persistent cough, swelling in stomach area, rapid weight gain, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, and chest pain.

Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the valves in the heart doesn’t function properly. This disrupts the blood flow and makes the heart work harder, causing strain on the heart. Heart valve disease can develop before birth or during one’s lifetime.
Heart murmur, chest pain, stomach swelling, fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles and feet, dizziness, fainting, and irregular heartbeat.
*People can be asymptomatic.


Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that affects how your heart pumps blood. It makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in ankles and legs, irregular heartbeat, bloating of the stomach, cough while laying down, difficulty lying flat to sleep, chest discomfort or pressure, and fainting.
*People can be asymptomatic.


An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. It occurs when electrical impulses in the heart don’t work properly. This causes the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly. There are various causes of arrhythmia, including but not limited to genetics, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and electrolyte imbalances in your blood.
Fluttering in chest, racing heartbeat, slow heartbeat, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
*People can be asymptomatic.

Risk Factors

Lifestyle, health conditions, family history, and demographics can all increase your risk for heart disease. About half of Americans have at least one of three key risk factors for heart disease. These factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

Health Conditions:

  • High Blood Pressure: Having uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the arteries by hardening and thickening them. This decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.
  • High Cholesterol: Too much “bad” cholesterol can cause plaque build-up on the artery walls.
  • Diabetes: High blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart. People with diabetes are also more likely to have certain medical conditions, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Obesity: Excess weight can lead to build-up in the arteries, which can clog them. Obesity can lead to other risk factors of heart disease. It is linked to higher levels of “bad” cholesterol and lower levels of “good” cholesterol. It can also cause an increase in blood pressure and lead to diabetes.

Factors You Can Control:

  • Physical Activity: People who are inactive have a higher risk of heart disease. Being inactive also increases the chance of developing medical conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Diet: Eating a diet high in fats, salt, sugar, and cholesterol has been linked to heart disease.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking damages your heart and blood vessels and causes plaque build-up in your arteries. Smoking is responsible for about 20% of deaths from heart disease.
  • Drinking: Heavy drinking can increase your blood pressure, as well as weaken your heart.
  • Stress: Having too much stress is bad for the heart and can worsen other risk factors like blood pressure.

Uncontrollable Factors:

  • Age: The risk of heart disease increases with age.
  • Sex: Men have a greater risk of heart disease and typically develop heart disease at a younger age than women.
  • Family History: If you have a family health history of heart disease, you are more likely to develop heart disease.



February 23 – March 16

Heart Smart Webinar Series

Join a virtual program that aims to help lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. Starting February 23rd, this series will take place from 12 PM-12:45 PM every Thursday until March 16th. There will be four live classes via Zoom, along with 3 other self-guided lessons. Register for this free program to help prevent heart disease or stroke!

Heart Smart

GatorCare members only

Nutrition Counseling

Want to learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits? Speak with a Registered Dietitian at no cost via Zoom or in person (Jacksonville). Eating healthy will help lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Learn more about the benefits of nutrition counseling and schedule an appointment!

Nutrition for disease prevention

Live-streamed classes

Fitness/Wellness Classes

Join the GatorCare Wellness Team Monday-Thursday at 12 PM for a 15-minute live-streamed fitness or wellness class. Each day focuses on a different aspect of fitness and wellness, including cardio, strength training, meditation, and stretching. All fitness levels are welcome, and no equipment is needed!

LIve-streamed classes

Fitness class


Looking for a fun way to get active? Join Zumba, the ultimate dance fitness party! Zumba boosts your energy by combining cardio, muscle conditioning, balance, and flexibility. Zumba is free to UF Health Shands and UF employees. Classes take place at UF Health Professional Park (3300 SW Williston Rd, Gainesville, FL) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 PM – 6:15 PM in room D102 (The Swamp). Sign up for a fun-filled workout!


online support group

Support Network

The American Heart Association has an online community for those affected by heart or stroke conditions. The community consists of patients, survivors, and caregivers, who lift each other up and help each other on their journey to better health. Join this support network and connect with others by sharing stories and providing support and advice to each other!

American Heart Association

Any Florida BLue Member 18+

Next Steps Health Coaching

Experience individualized health coaching with the Florida Blue Next Steps Health Coaching program. Health coaching is free for all Florida Blue members who are ages 18+ and is available through phone and email with a Registered Nurse Certified Health Coach.
During these one-on-one sessions, discuss health and wellness topics that matter to you.


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