Heart and diseases of the blood vessels are known as cardiovascular diseases. These diseases kill more men and women than any others. There are more than 1.5 million heart attacks in the US every year. It has been estimated that someone dies from heart disease every 34 seconds.
Heart disease begins at a very early age with fatty deposits that build up inside the walls of the blood vessels. Over the years, the deposits become oxidized, making them hard. The oxidized deposits, commonly called plaque, trigger the body's immune system response. White blood cells and inflammation causing particles are sent to the site of the oxidized deposit.
Over the course of many years, the blood vessels can narrow significantly because of these deposits. In some cases, a rupture in the blood vessel wall occurs. All of the material rushes out of the rupture and forms a thrombus, blocking the flow of blood to a part of the body. If flow of blood to the brain is stopped, the result may be a stroke. If blood flow to the heart is blocked, the result is a heart attack.
In other cases, a piece of the plaque breaks loose creating a blood clot or fat globule called an embolus. The embolus may travel practically anywhere in the body before it becomes lodged and causes a blockage. When this occurs, doctors refer to it as an embolism. An embolism can be the underlying cause of a stroke or heart attack.
Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease
Chest pain is the most common symptom and occurs when there is insufficient blood supply to the heart on an occasional basis. Early on in the disease, the pain may be felt as tightness in the chest during exercise. Chest pain is also called angina.
Shortness of breath is another symptom that may indicate cardiovascular disease. The shortness of breath is due to a lack of blood and oxygen reaching the lungs. The symptom is usually accompanied by swelling in the feet and ankles due to poor circulation.
Warning signs of a stroke include changes in vision, sudden severe headache, dizziness, nausea or drowsiness. In heart failure, fatigue, persistent cough, shortness of breath and swelling of the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen may be present.
Causes and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
Age is the major risk factor, although normal aging is not necessarily a cause. The reasons that aging and cardiovascular disease are related are numerous. Many of the reasons are related to unhealthy lifestyle.
Some of the potential causes of cardiovascular disease include:
· Excessive alcohol intake
Excessive sugar consumption
Excessive consumption of saturated fats
· Lack of physical activity, especially aerobic activity
Type II diabetes
The risk is greater among people with a family history of heart disease. Air pollution is a separate risk factor. Several studies have connected that living in an urban environment is accompanied by an increased risk.
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