Heart Disease

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Video 1: Dr. Nasir Sulemanjee, cardiologist at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center explains heart disease and risk factors.
Video 2: Dr. Sulemanjee describes the Gold Plus award Aurora St. Luke's received for excellence in cardiovascular treatment.

Heart disease is not one specific disease. Rather, it’s a general term that refers to dozens of conditions and disorders that affect any part of the cardiovascular system.

Another name for heart disease is cardiovascular disease. “Cardio” refers to the heart while “vascular” refers to the veins and arteries that take blood to and from the heart.

Your cardiovascular system extends from your heart to your limbs to your brain. Heart disease is any condition or disorder that affects the structure or function of your heart or vascular system. 

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

Some types of heart disease signsare noticeable; others, like hypertension, can easily go unnoticed. The following heart disease signs and symptoms are most common:

  • Chest discomfort or pain (angina)
  • Dizziness or feeling faint or light-headed
  • Early fatigue or a change in exercise tolerance
  • Heart murmur or palpitations
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet or abdomen
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Weight gain in the form of water retention

Many Types of Heart Disease

Coronary artery disease is by far the most common type of heart disease, affecting nearly 17 million Americans. It occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrow or blocked, preventing the heart from receiving the blood and oxygen it needs to function properly.

Because coronary artery disease is so common, many people refer to it coronary heart disease—or, simply, heart disease. To avoid confusion, it’s helpful to remember that coronary artery disease is actually a specific type of heart disease.

Other common types of heart disease include:

Risks for Heart Disease

There are many risks for heart disease. Some can be avoided or managed while others cannot. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance for developing heart disease.

The following risks cannot be avoided:

  • Family history (having a parent, sibling or child with heart disease)
  • Increasing age
  • Race (risk is higher in African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans

It is important to remember that prevention(link) is the best medicine. Living with heart diseaseis easier when you can avoid the following risks or manage them with medications:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Uncontrolled diabetes

A diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, uncontrolled stress or anger, and drinking too much alcohol are also thought to contribute to your overall risk for heart disease.

Leading Midwest Cardiology Program

Aurorais known for providing one of the best cardiology programs in the United States. Our multidisciplinary approach to care includes access to outstanding doctors and services for preventing, diagnosing and treating heart disease. We also offer a full-service rehab program to ensure your optimal recovery.

Our doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. To find a doctor or cardiologist near you, we invite you to use our online directory. For assistance or to get a second opinion, please call 888-649-6892.