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Cardiovascular Disease Guide


According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease refers to several conditions:

  • Heart disease: A condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds in the arterial walls. This build-up can narrow the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through them. If a blood clot forms, it can block the blood flow completely. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.
  • Heart attack: Occurs when blood flowing to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot.
  • Stroke: Occurs when a blood vessel feeding the brain is blocked, usually by a blood clot.
  • Heart failure: This occurs when the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should be. The heart keeps working but isn’t meeting the body’s need for blood and oxygen.
  • Arrhythmia: Abnormal heart rhythm. There are several types of arrhythmias: The heart can beat too slow, too fast, or irregularly.


You can lower your risk for heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle: Quit smoking, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Eat a heart-healthy diet by increasing your intake of vegetables and lean proteins while limiting salt and sugar. A healthy, active lifestyle will also help if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, the most common risk factor for heart disease.

You should also learn how to reduce your stress. People cope with stress in many ways: They may eat unhealthy foods, overeat, smoke, drink alcohol — or engage in several of these behaviors. All of these can increase heart health risks. Stress can also cause a short-term rise in blood pressure and heart rate.

To reduce stress, practice daily relaxation:

  • Make time for yourself each day with a book or music. You could also watch the sunset or do anything that gives you a sense of peace and calm.
  • Engage in your favorite exercise to reduce tension.
  • Practice time management: Give yourself enough time to get things done and save yourself from the stress of rushing.
  • Keep a sense of humor. If you can laugh at yourself and your day-to-day life, you’ll be happier and healthier.
  • Try deep breathing or meditation. Libraries and bookstores offer audio files or CDs that can help you relax.
  • Use your imagination: When you feel stress, stop what you’re doing and imagine a peaceful scene to calm yourself.
  • Identify your triggers and plan to avoid, or prepare, for those triggers.
  • Limit situations with relatives or friends that can turn into arguments and stressful encounters.
  • Practice letting go of small issues that cause you stress.
  • Find ways to remind yourself to use your stress-coping resources when you feel your stress levels are rising.
  • If you need more help and ideas, join a support group. Sharing problems with others can help.


Treatment plans vary depending on your symptoms and what type of cardiovascular disease you have. Cardiovascular disease treatment can include:

  • Lifestyle changes: This includes changing your diet, increasing exercise and quitting smoking or reducing alcohol use.
  • Medications: Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications such as statins to help manage cardiovascular disease.
  • Medical procedures/surgeries: If medication isn’t enough, your healthcare provider may ask you to undergo a medical procedure or surgery.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation: A monitored exercise program can help your heart get stronger.
  • Active surveillance: Your condition may need careful monitoring over time without medications or procedures/surgeries.



  • Cardiovascular Services: Treats the heart and circulatory system.
  • Transplant Services: Includes all surgeries and pre- and postsurgical care.
  • Home Health Services: Nursing services and medical assistance provided in your home to help you manage or recover from a medical condition, illness or injury.


  • Weight Loss Health Coaching Sessions: Age 10 years and up. Must submit a consent form, verbally pledge to lose weight within 30 days and complete 6 sessions within 6 months. Earn $20. 
  • Tobacco Cessation Health Coaching Sessions: Age 10 years and up. Must submit a consent form, verbally pledge to stop tobacco use and complete all 4 sessions within 6 months of the first session. $5 reward after each completed session. Earn up to $20.

Learn more about Healthy Rewards.  


  • Mended Hearts: The world’s largest peer-to-peer support network for cardiovascular disease patients. Mended Hearts supports all cardiovascular disease patients and recognizes the growing valve disease patient population.
  • The American Heart Association: This nonprofit provides support networks for individuals dealing with a heart attack or stroke. Their community of survivors and caregivers offers continued support.
  • Sunshine Health Community Resource Database: Find more free resources through Sunshine Health’s Community Resource Database. Enter your ZIP code to search for help with food, shelter, healthcare, money, school, jobs and more.
  • Sunshine Health offers Case Management for care coordination needs and support with the management of your condition.


Call Member Services at 1-866-796-0530 (TTY: 1-800-955-8770) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern.