Cardiovascular Disease: Definition, Causes, Signs, Management
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States as well as many parts of the world including South Africa. But what is it? What influences it and how can I manage my heart health?
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease can refer to a number of conditions:
Heart disease - the other name for cardiovascular disease
Heart and blood vessel disease, or heart disease, includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in cardiovascular disease that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries causing the arteries to narrow 0ver time. Because of this, blood flow is restricted and if a blood clot forms, it can completely block the flow of blood resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If a clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. This is usually the most common type of cardiovascular disease.
Many who survive their first heart attack and can still live a normal life with many years of activity. But, it is a stark reminder to implement a number of lifestyle changes.
Since we are all unique, our treatment and lifestyle recommendations will be too.
Stroke as a cardiovascular challenge
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when a blood vessel that feeds the brain is blocked, usually from a blood clot.
Brain cells begin to die if the blood supply to that part of the brain is cut off. As a result, one can lose the functions controlled by that part of the brain such as walking or talking.
When a blood vessel in the brain bursts, it is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. This is most often caused by uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells have died as these cells are never replaced by the body. There are, however, a number of promising therapies being researched that can assist with recovery. One such therapy is known as photobiomodulation which uses lasers and diodes to regenerate and stimulate the brain.
Sometimes brain cells don’t die during a stroke, in which case, the damage is temporary. Occasionally, injured cells can repair themselves resulting in a return of some of the functions that had been lost.
Eventually, strength may return, speech may get better and memory may improve. This recovery process is what stroke rehabilitation is all about.
Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, entails the heart not pumping blood as well as it should. A common misconception is that the heart stops beating. I reality, the heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met.
Heart failure is commonly referred to as one of the silent killers and can worsen if left untreated.
Arrhythmia in cardiovascular disease
Arrhythmia refers to an abnormal heart rhythm. There are various types of arrhythmias in that the heart can beat too slowly, too fast, or irregularly.
- Bradycardia, or a heart rate that’s too slow, is when the heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute.
- Tachycardia, or a heart rate that’s too fast, refers to a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute.
An arrhythmia can affect how well your heart works. With an irregular heartbeat, your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
Heart valve problems
When heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, a condition called stenosis results. When the heart valves don’t close properly and thus allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. If the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called prolapse.
What influences cardiovascular health?
One way to support cardiovascular health is to play by the numbers. All five of the following measurements tell you something about the state of your heart. These are the five most commonly used tests
Excess cholesterol gets deposited in, and narrows, the artery walls. Whilst cholesterol itself is not a bad thing, the challenge comes into play when cholesterol becomes inflamed.
Elevated triglycerides are associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease
High blood pressure puts stress on the artery walls and increases the heart’s workload
Too much homocysteine degrades the structural integrity of the arteries
Elevated C-reactive protein is associated with a higher risk for hypertension and CVD
10 Supplement secrets for cardiovascular health
Everyone knows that eating a healthy, whole foods diet and getting regular exercise is important for cardiovascular wellness. But did you know that select nutritional supplements can also make a big difference? Here are three to consider.
Chances are you’ve heard about Omega 3 fatty acids because they’re good for so many things. Supplementing with Omega 3 fish oil is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Here are just some Omega 3 benefits:
- Helps maintain healthy levels of triglycerides and C-reactive protein
- Promotes a desirable blood pressure
- Supports a regular heart rhythm
Your mitochondria are the batteries in the cells. They are beautiful little organelles that are responsible for the production of the energy that we use.
When the body has more energy, many of our healing are challenges are addressed. Healthy mitochondria is something that we need to focus on as we age to keep the body healthy. Some of the potential benefits of CoQ10 to your heart are:
- Congestive heart failure might be alleviated
- Blood pressure might be lowered for people with hypertension
- Blood viscosity of patients with ischemic heart disease might be reduced
- It might help with the prevention and treatment of strokes
A fascinating study by Ohio University in 2018 concluded that Vitamin D3 could help restore damage to the cardiovascular system caused by diseases like hypertension and diabetes.
We’ve spoken about Vitamin D3 in the past - it is one of the most important things to supplement with for health!
There are several reasons that one would want to incorporate curcumin into your supplement regime when it comes to heart health.
- Curcumin may decrease LDL (bad) Cholesterol and increase HDL (good) Cholesterol
- It reduces inflammation in the body
- Curcumin may help to prevent and treat atherosclerosis
- It may help to prevent abnormal blood clotting
Good old dependable vitamin C. One of our favourite vitamins (if we had to choose). There is a myriad of health benefits with regards to the cardiovascular system that one finds in vitamin C. Some include:
- Possible control of excessive bleeding
- Prevention of abnormal blood clotting
- Vitamin C may regress the formation of plaques that are implicated in the development of atherosclerosis
- May improve endothelial cell function in congestive heart failure
- Vitamin C may help to prevent heart attacks and angina
In closing, cardiovascular disease is usually something that can be prevented through knowledge and the application of some simple principles!
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