The warning signs of heart disease and what 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, as reported by WebMD. Furthermore, The Centers for Disease Control estimates that it makes up one in every four deaths, and that it affects hundreds of thousands of people a year. 
According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiovascular disease refers to a range of conditions where blood vessels are narrowed or blocked leading to a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke. Heart disease also refers to other conditions like those that directly affect the heart muscle, rhythm, and valves.
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While there's a wide range of serious conditions that fall under heart disease which each have their own signs and symptoms, there are general risk factors and symptoms that you should be aware of.
Heart Disease & Risk Factors
WebMD explains that coronary heart disease (also referred to as coronary artery disease) results when cholesterol-laden plaque builds up in your arteries and blocks the blood flow. What happens is that the plaque build-up makes the walls of your blood vessels really sticky, so over time the inflammatory cells, lipoproteins, and calcium that travel in your blood stream start sticking to the walls. More sticks as you get older, and  when enough sticks, it can cause a blockage which restricts the blood and oxygen your heart needs to keep pumping. This blockage causes a myriad of conditions which we will explain further on.
But what brings about heart disease? Well, the CDC reports that about half (49%) of Americans have at least one of these risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol
- Smoking habit
And there's other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that also put people at high risk like:
- Obesity
- Diabetes
- Poor diet
- Not being physically active
- Excessive alcohol use 
As for symptoms, each unique condition linked to heart disease has their own signs, but there are some common symptoms like:
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Weakness and/or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
Since there are a wide range of conditions that are caused by heart disease we're going to focus on 3 of the most prominent: heart attack, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure.
Heart Attack
Like we mentioned above, your heart muscle needs oxygen to survive. The American Heart Association explains that when the blood that's carrying the essential oxygen to your heart muscle is either really blocked, or totally cut off by plaque, it can cause part of your heart muscle to die. This causes a heart attack.
The AHA says symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest discomfort in the center of the chest. This discomfort can last for more than a few minutes, or it can go away and come back. The AHA describes it as an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. 
- Upper body pain/discomfort. Symptoms of a heart attack may also include pain in one or both arms, neck, jaw, back, or even the stomach.
- Shortness of breath
- Sweat, nausea, lightheadedness
Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation, also commonly referred to as AFib, is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. WebMD explains that electrical impulses make our heart muscles contract to pump blood, and AFib is caused when these electrical impulses don't travel to the heart muscles in an orderly fashion. When the electrical impulses don't go straight to the heart muscle, they cause a very rapid and disorganized heartbeat. 
AFib affects more than 2 million people a year, it increases with age, and is associated with a wide range of conditions according to Web MD:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease (blockages in the heart's arteries)
- Heart valve disease
- Previous heart surgery
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart failure
- Cardiomyopathy (disease of heart muscle that causes heart failure)
- Congenital heart disease (heart disease present at birth)
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in lungs) 
According to WebMD, the signs and symptoms to be aware of for AFib include:
- Heart palpitations
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Dizziness 
- Chest discomfort 
- Shortness of breath
Heart Failure
Heart failure may sound like the scariest condition of them all, but the American Heart Association explains that heart failure just means the heart isn't pumping like it should because it's weak. Your heart pumps in order to send oxygen and nutrient rich blood to your body's cells, and when these cells aren't nourished your body can't function correctly.
So when it comes to heart failure, the weakened heart can't send the oxygen and blood your body needs which results in fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen ankles, and sometimes coughing. Simple tasks, like climbing the stairs, can become very difficult for someone experiencing heart failure. For more information on how your heart tries to cope with this weakness, check out the American Heart Association's thorough explanation
The AHA explains that heart failure is more likely to happen as we age, but that it's a chronic condition that anyone can develop due to a myriad of other conditions:
- Coronary heart (artery) disease
- Past heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal heart valves
- Heart muscle disease
- Birth defects
- Severe lung disease
- Diabetes
- Obesity
- Sleep apnea 
Less commonly, these other conditions can also prompt heart failure:
- Low red blood cell count
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Abnormal heart rhythm 

So, what can you do to avoid heart disease, and the resulting conditions?
To avoid heart disease, or to manage existing heart disease it's important to stay healthy. The AHA has some important information and tips to stay healthy:
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