Heart disease is an umbrella term for a larger group of conditions that affect the various parts and functions of the heart. "These range from the coronary arteries that bring oxygen and nutrients to feed the heart muscle, to the valves in the heart chambers used to help contain the blood coursing through the heart before it gets pumped out, to the heart muscle itself, to the cellophane-like wrapping surrounding the heart," explains William W. Li, M.D., a Boston-based physician and author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. "Electrical problems in the heart lead to abnormal pumping action, called arrhythmia, while an infection of the heart valves or muscle can also cause heart disease."
Li notes that each of these parts and functions is designed to work together, like an orchestra, so that the heart can do its job, pumping blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. And while any part of the overall system can malfunction, there is good news, too: You can play a significant role in helping minimize your risk—and even reverse the signs of heart disease—by making healthier lifestyle choices.
About the Author
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, Mississippi.