What is cardiovascular disease?
Globally, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of all death. Heart and blood vessel diseases are collectively referred to as cardiovascular diseases. The cardiovascular system is a part of the circulatory system responsible for carrying blood throughout the body.
This article aims to provide information on the symptoms and types of cardiovascular disease, treatment options and lifestyle advice.
Types of cardiovascular diseases
Since cardiovascular diseases stem from a whole network of the heart, capillaries, veins, and arteries, there are many different conditions within this group.
There are four main types of CVD:
Coronary heart disease:
A buildup of fatty substances in the coronary arteries causes coronary heart disease, which manifests as a blockage or interruption of the blood supply to your heart muscle. The primary blood vessels that carry blood to the heart are called coronary arteries. When your coronary arteries narrow due to a fatty substance buildup, you will have difficulty getting blood to your heart. This can result in chest pains. If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack, which is a medical emergency.
When the blood supply to the brain is compromised, a severe medical condition called a stroke results. Like all organs, your brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function correctly. Because the blood supplies this oxygen, brain cells will start to deteriorate if your blood supply is restricted or interrupted. This could result in brain damage or even death. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment, as less harm is likely to be done if treatment is started right away.
Peripheral arterial disease:
Peripheral arterial disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease, manifests as a blockage in the arteries that supply your limbs, usually your legs. Pain in the leg when walking is the most typical symptom of peripheral arterial disease. This typically occurs in your thighs, hips, or calves, either one or both.
The aorta is the largest blood vessel that transports blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Aortic aneurysm, in which the wall of the aorta weakens and bulges outward, is the most prevalent form of aortic disease. Typically, you feel discomfort in your back, chest, or abdomen.
Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases
A person with cardiovascular disease may exhibit different signs and symptoms depending on certain influencing factors. In some people, there are only subtle symptoms, which can lead to the condition going undetected.
Heart attacks or other acute coronary events may present with the following signs and symptoms:
- Angina, a type of chest discomfort characterised by a feeling of pressure, tightness, burning, dullness, or heaviness in the chest brought on by a decrease in blood supply to the heart muscles
- Cold sweats, as well as night sweats
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Severe neck ache
- Shortness of breath or palpitations, especially during strenuous physical activity
- Weakness, lethargy, and exhaustion
Treatment for cardiovascular diseases
Treatments for cardiovascular diseases aim to relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of the condition recurring or worsening. It also prevents complications, such as hospital admission, heart failure, stroke, heart attack, or death.
These options include:
Medications: To manage cardiovascular disease, your doctor may prescribe medications. Medication type will depend on what kind of cardiovascular disease you have.
Surgeries: In cases where medications aren’t enough, your healthcare specialist may employ specific procedures or surgeries to treat your cardiovascular disease. They may include stents in your heart or leg arteries, minimally invasive heart surgery, open-heart surgery, ablations or cardioversion.
Cardiac rehabilitation: To help strengthen your heart, you might require a well-supervised workout regimen.
Active surveillance: To keep track of the condition, you might need careful monitoring over time.
Lifestyle changes: This includes altering your diet, stepping up your aerobic exercise, and giving up smoking.
There are quite a number of factors that can increase your risk of getting CVD. They are known as risk factors, and the more you have, the higher your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).
These risk factors are:
High blood pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is one of the most critical risk factors for CVD. Your blood vessels may suffer damage if your blood pressure is too high.
Another vital CVD risk factor is smoking and other tobacco usage. Your blood vessels might get damaged and narrowed by the toxic compounds in cigarettes.
The blood contains a fatty molecule called cholesterol. Your blood vessels may narrow due to elevated cholesterol levels, which raises your chance of getting a blood clot.
Blood arteries can be harmed by high blood sugar levels, increasing the likelihood that they will narrow. Being overweight or obese is common among those with type 2 diabetes and is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
If you primarily sit at a desk or a couch all day, you are more likely to develop a cardiovascular disease due to a lack of regular exercise. Exercise can assist you in maintaining a healthy weight when accompanied by a balanced diet.
You are at a higher risk of getting diabetes and high blood pressure, risk factors for cardiovascular disease if you are overweight or obese. If your body mass index is 25 or above, you are also at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Family history of CVD
Your chance of acquiring CVD is also enhanced if your family has a history of the disease. If any of the following apply, you are considered to have a family history of CVD:
- If your father or brother was diagnosed with a CVD before the age of 55
- If your mother or sister was diagnosed with a CVD before the age of 65
South Asians and persons of Black African or African Caribbean ancestry are more likely to develop CVD in the UK. This is because individuals from these backgrounds are more likely to have additional CVD risk factors, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
When to seek a doctor
While it can sometimes be confusing to know when to see a doctor, there are some signs you should not ignore. These include:
- Chest pain
- You experience shortness of breath, palpitations or dizziness.
- You have a family history of heart disease.
- You have high blood pressure
- You are diabetic
- You have high cholesterol levels
- You have chronic kidney disease.
Lifestyle tips to prevent some of the conditions of CVD
There are lifestyle changes that can help you significantly reduce your chances of getting cardiovascular disease. For example:
- Avoid smoking tobacco
- Engage in exercise for 30 to 60 minutes daily
- Manage stress levels properly and rest
- Make healthier food choices
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular health checks for early detection
Cardiovascular diseases can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and even death. Early diagnosis can help with effective treatment and management. You can make lifestyle changes to manage or prevent cardiovascular diseases while living a fun and active life.
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