What Is Cardiovascular Disease?

17.9 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases. Each disease connected to cardiovascular disease is serious and requires immediate attention and treatment. Read on to learn everything you need to know about cardiovascular disease.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 7, 2020

Cardiovascular Disease Symptoms - Heart - 1MD

Cardiovascular disease is a blanket term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or the blood vessels. These are slightly different from heart diseases, which impact the heart structure and function only. Each cardiovascular condition is serious and requires immediate attention and treatment. Understanding the different types is essential.

Causes of Cardiovascular Disease

High blood pressure or hypertension is a major contributing factor to cardiovascular disease. The specific causes for each type of cardiovascular disease can vary, but there are cardiovascular disease risk factors to be aware of.

♦ Radiation therapy
♦ Smoking
♦ Lack of sleep
♦ Diabetes
♦ Physical inactivity
♦ Diets high in carbohydrates and fats
♦ Chronic stress
♦ Air pollution
♦ Excessive alcohol consumption
♦ COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

What Are the Variations of Cardiovascular Disease?

All heart or cardiac diseases, such as angina, heart failure, arrhythmia, and atherosclerosis, are also under the main classification of cardiovascular diseases. Along with these conditions and diseases, the following cardiovascular system diseases are the most common.

Heart attack: This occurs when an artery supplying blood to your heart becomes blocked.

Hypertension: This is defined as elevated and unhealthy blood pressure levels.

Lipid Disorders: This typically refers to high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels in the blood, which can block arteries and vessels with buildup.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD): This is the most common circulatory problem, and it happens when narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs.

Stroke: When arteries leading to the brain are blocked, brain cells die as a result of reduced oxygen.

Cardiovascular Disease Symptoms

The symptoms will vary depending on the disease you have, but in general, there are tell-tale signs that you have cardiovascular disease and should seek medical treatment.

Pains or pressure in the chest
♦ Pain or discomfort in the arms, left shoulder, and neck
Nausea and fatigue
Lightheadedness or feeling faint
Cold sweat
Shortness of breath

Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosis

Your doctor will always perform a physical exam first based on the symptoms you are having. It is important to discuss all medical histories and family history of cardiovascular diseases. Blood tests and imaging scans can also be done to confirm a diagnosis and rule out other possible conditions. Electrocardiograms help doctors evaluate the heart’s rhythm and structure, and a stress test can evaluate how your heart responds when under stress.

Treatment for Cardiovascular Disease

Treatment for cardiovascular diseases can involve medications as well as dietary and lifestyle changes. Depending on the severity of the disease, surgery may also be necessary.

The top medications used to treat cardiovascular diseases work to regulate blood pressure and promote blood vessel health, so as to keep blood pumping efficiently through the heart. Medications to lower cholesterol are also common.

Cardiovascular Disease Diet

The best diet to prevent cardiovascular disease is one that is designed to boost heart health and support its function. There are foods to eat and those to avoid so that your heart remains strong and healthy. 

If you have already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, a heart-healthy diet is recommended to prevent future issues and complications.

Eat more of these: healthy fats such as raw nuts, olive oils, flaxseed, and avocados; fresh fruits and vegetables; lean protein from fish and poultry; high-fiber cereals and grains; and organic-dairy like unsweetened yogurt and skimmed milk.

Eat less of these: trans fats and saturated fats from fried and processed foods; packaged foods and ready-made meals; white bread or sugary cereals; processed meats and processed cheeses; full-fat milk; and sweetened yogurts.

Natural Treatments for Cardiovascular Disease

Practicing general heart healthcare is important for preventing future cardiovascular problems. This includes a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise. The best exercise for the heart is a combination of stretching, aerobic activity, and strength training. You need to start slow after any cardiovascular disease diagnosis but aim for at least thirty minutes a day.

In addition to this, there are natural supplements you can take to boost heart health, and help repair damage done from cardiovascular disease. As part of your regular diet, these supplements can also reduce the risk of future cardiovascular problems. 

Coenzyme Q10: This chemical plays a role in the ability of cells to extract energy from food. As the hardest working muscle in your body, the heart benefits from this chemical by getting all the energy it needs. This prevents your heart from becoming overworked and stressed.

Omega-3 fatty acids: These help to reduce inflammation that is caused by arterial blockages and also lowers triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood. Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to lower risk for cardiovascular disease and healthier blood pressure.

Magnesium and potassium: Magnesium can reduce blood pressure and strain on the heart while potassium helps by offsetting any rises in blood pressure that can occur from excess sodium in the diet. 

Cardiovascular Disease Surgery

Surgical options such as coronary artery bypass surgery are performed in severe cases where the heart has been badly damaged. An artery from another location in the body is grafted in place to bypass the damaged one. This allows for regular blood flow to continue to the heart. 

Angioplasty can also be done. This is when a balloon is inserted into the damaged artery and inflates it to open the artery. A stent is then placed inside to keep the artery open. 

Cardiovascular Disease Statistics

♦ 17.9 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases.

♦ Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death annually across the globe.

♦ Of the total cardiovascular disease-related deaths, 85 percent are due to heart attack and stroke.

♦ Of the 17 million premature deaths in individuals under 70, 37 percent are caused by cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular Disease and Children

Cardiovascular disease can occur in children too, but it is typically the result of a congenital heart defect or being genetically predisposed. Recent studies have found that diet now plays a significant role in the development of cardiovascular disease in children, and so does childhood obesity. 

Healthy eating habits and physical activity are recommended to keep your child heart-healthy. In the event of a diagnosis, treatment plans are similar to those used for adults.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Cardiovascular disease is chronic, and the leading cause of death for both men and women. The long-term outlook for cardiovascular disease depends on a few different factors. The type of disease, your reaction to medications prescribed, and the extent of any damage already caused will all play a role.

Medication and any dietary and lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor are the only way to prevent symptoms from worsening or further complications. 

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