What is heart disease and stroke?

Heart disease and stroke are different diseases, but they have many of the same root causes and risk factors.

Heart disease is the term we use to describe a number of conditions affecting the structure and function of the heart.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common of these conditions and occurs when blood vessels in your heart become blocked or narrowed, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching your heart. It can cause chest pain – called angina – or even a heart attack.

A stroke refers to damage to an area of the brain that occurs when blood vessels rupture or when blood supply is reduced or cut off. The effects of a stroke depend on what part of the brain was injured, and how badly it was injured. A stroke can impact any number of areas including your ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason, read and write.

In a small number of cases, stroke-like damage to the brain can occur when the heart stops (cardiac arrest). The longer the brain goes without the oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood flow, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage.

Find out about your unique risks for heart disease and stroke.