Cardiovascular disease is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of heart and vascular conditions, affecting arteries, veins, heart valves or the heart itself. The term “cardiovascular disease” is often used interchangeably or substituted for “heart disease,” “coronary heart disease,” or “vascular disease.”

What is heart disease?

Heart disease includes a wide range of conditions, involving problems with the coronary arteries, heart valves or the heart itself.  Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, and can lead to heart attacks and heart failure.


The chances of developing heart disease increase as you get older. Men over the age of 45 and women over 55 are at a higher risk. Heart disease can be hereditary, and it is more common in people who have a history of heart disease in their family. If someone in your family had heart disease, particularly at an early age, you are at a higher risk. In addition to a family history of heart disease, other risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • A history of smoking


Symptoms of heart disease can vary depending on the type of heart disease and the person. Women, for example, often experience different pain than men. The elderly and those with diabetes may also show varying signs and symptoms. For most people, symptoms worsen over time. Symptoms may increase with higher activity levels and decrease with rest. Some people, usually women, may not even show any signs or symptoms of heart disease.

Some common signs and symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Angina
  • Pain in the heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the shoulder, back or upper abdominal area
  • Sweating
  • Heartburn
  • Palpitations, or a fluttering feeling in the heart
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Radiating pain in the arm or jaw
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in ability or difficulty to perform daily activities
  • Weakness

Why choose Ohio State?

Ohio State has a complete team of cardiologists and heart and vascular specialists treating every form of cardiovascular disease. We have physicians that specialize in specific areas such as vascular disease, heart rhythm problems and women’s heart health, to name a few.

And, as an academic medical center, our physicians and researchers are not only treating heart and vascular disease, but are also researching new treatments, medicines and devices to improve and save lives.

Ohio State offers several tools that can help lower your risk for heart disease. Healthy lifestyle changes are an important step in your treatment if you’ve been diagnosed with heart or vascular disease.

  • If you are currently a smoker, Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital Smoking Cessation Clinic can help you quit (Link to page)
  • High cholesterol is a serious risk factor associated with heart and vascular disease. Learn more about Ohio State’s Cardiovascular Risk Reduction and Lipid Clinic, where we design individualized care plans to help you meet your cholesterol and lipid management goals (Link to page)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are important in preventing and treating heart and vascular disease. Learn more about the Fitness Center at Ohio State’s Center for Wellness and Prevention (Link to page)


When diagnosing heart disease, a physician looks at a patient’s medical history and symptoms. Risk factors are considered during a diagnosis, and a physical examination is conducted.

If your physician suspects that you have heart disease, he or she will recommend further tests. Tests may include:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT)
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG)
  • Nuclear imaging
  • Stress tests


Different treatments work to relieve symptoms of heart disease, lower the risk of blood clots, prevent complications, widen arteries and slow, stop or reverse plaque buildup. Your physician will likely recommend a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. In some cases, surgery and cardiac rehabilitation may be necessary.

Medicines help to lower risk factors of heart disease, prevent blood clots, reduce symptoms and decrease the risk of side effects such as a heart attack.

In addition to medication, heart disease can be controlled through lifestyle changes.

  • Quit smoking
  • Manage and limit stress
  • Reach or maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
    • Make sure you discuss with your physician what level of exercise is safe for you
    • Eat healthy
      • Limit the amount of fat, salt, alcohol and sugar that you consume. Include fruits, whole grains, vegetables and lean meats in your diet.

Preventative care is important, especially if you have any risk factors of heart disease. Reduce your chances of developing heart disease by:

  • Staying physically active
  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Not smoking
  • Eating fruits and vegetables

What is vascular disease?

Vascular disease includes many different conditions that affect your arteries, veins and any other part of your circulatory system. Some common vascular diseases include peripheral artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, aneurysms, renal artery disease and varicose veins.


The chances of developing vascular disease increase as you age. Additional factors that contribute to vascular disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Family history of vascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy
  • Standing or sitting still for long periods of time


Vascular disease is often referred to as a silent threat, as the symptoms of vascular disease may be sudden or not present themselves at all.

Why choose Ohio State?

Ohio State is a leader in the care of patients with vascular diseases, performing hundreds of vascular procedures each year.

At Ohio State’s Integrated Vascular Center, our patients benefit from the coordination of experts in all fields of vascular care – from diagnosis and management of vascular disease to complex surgeries and treatments not offered elsewhere in the area.

Because of the expertise of our surgical teams and our experience in highly specialized procedures and advanced techniques, Ohio State’s Integrated Vascular Center is a regional referral center for patients who come to us from all parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and the Midwest.

  • Ohio State is home to the state’s first Level One Heart and Vascular Emergency program, which mobilizes a team to provide emergency treatment for life-threatening heart and vascular conditions
  • Our Aortic Center offers multidisciplinary team care for patients with thoracic aortic aneurysms and thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms
  • Our Limb Preservation Program features highly trained experts dedicated to healing wounds, saving limbs and preventing amputation
  • The Ohio State Peripheral Vascular Laboratory features full-service diagnostic testing accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories


Physicians diagnose vascular disease with a physical exam and a review of your family history. Further tests, such as an angiography or Doppler ultrasound, may be performed.


A combination of medication, lifestyle changes and, in some cases, surgery is used to treat vascular disease.

Helpful lifestyle changes include:

  • Reaching and maintain a healthy weight
  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising regularly, after discussing a safe exercise plan with your doctor
  • Not smoking
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