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Frequently Asked Questions About Heart Disease

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is most commonly caused by narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries – the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary heart (or artery) disease, and it’s the main cause of heart attacks in men and women. Fat, cholesterol, and other substances collect in the walls of your coronary arteries, leading to a buildup of plaque and a condition called atherosclerosis. As the coronary artery narrows, blood flow slows or stops, which causes angina (severe chest pain), shortness of breath, or a heart attack.

Am I at risk for heart disease?

There are several risk factors for heart disease – and you can control most of them! Factors you can control include cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking and stress. Factors you cannot control include family history and age.

If you have high numbers for three or more of the risk factors you can control – cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity (particularly your waist circumference) – you may have metabolic syndrome. A person with metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease as someone without metabolic syndrome. Be sure to talk with your doctor or health care provider to learn more.

Is heart disease preventable?

Yes! In most cases, heart disease is 100% preventable. By getting screened, knowing your risk, and reducing your risk factors, you can help prevent ever developing heart disease. While there are certain risk factors that you cannot change, like family history and age, you can help lower your risk by controlling other risk factors, including cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, and stress.

What is a cardiovascular disease screening?

Basic heart disease screenings identify any risk factors that you may have for heart disease. These screenings include a blood pressure check, as well as a simple blood test to measure blood glucose and cholesterol. They may also include an obesity screening and a review of your family health history. To better understand what your screening results mean, please visit our know your numbers section under patient information on this website.

How can I contact the BWH Cardiovascular Wellness Service?

You can call us at (857) 307-4000 or email us at

To submit a question, please email us at


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