What are cardiovascular diseases?

What are cardiovascular diseases?
Published : Feb 03, 2024
Last Updated : Feb 06, 2024

Cardiovascular diseases, or CVDs, are the leading cause of death globally. Every year around 17.9 million people die because of it, which can be seen increasing yearly. CVDs a group of disorders that affect the heart and the blood vessels. It includes coronary heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and other heart-related conditions.

Death from CVD is mainly due to heart attack and stroke. Four out of five people suffering from heart disease die from a heart attack or stroke. And a third of these deaths are premature in people under 70.

Thus, it is important to detect cardiovascular disease at early as possible to take steps to manage your condition. Keep reading to know more about Cardiovascular diseases, their causes, risk factors, symptoms, and ways to manage them.

What are cardiovascular diseases?

Cardiovascular diseases(CVDs) are related to the heart or blood vessels. When blood flow gets affected by a blood clot(Thrombosis) or the build-up of fatty deposits inside an artery, it causes hardening and narrowing of arteries, causing risk to the body's organs like the heart, brain and other organs. Due to insufficient blood flow to the heart and brain, the risk of heart attack and strokes gets higher. These are the life-threatening episodes that appear due to cardiovascular diseases.

Some groups of heart disorders and blood vessels fall under CVDs. They include:

Coronary heart disease 

It is a disease in which the blood supply to the heart muscles gets blocked. Over time, when the walls of arteries become furred up with fatty deposits, the blood vessels fail to properly supply blood to the heart's muscles. 

Read heart-related article - Atherosclerosis

Cerebrovascular disease 

A disease is a group of conditions that affects the blood flow and the blood vessels in the brain. Due to narrowing(stenosis), blood clots (thrombosis), blockage in the artery(Embolism) or rupture of blood vessels(Hemorrhage), the flow of blood may get affected.

Peripheral arterial disease

It is a disease that affects the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs. It affects the legs or lower extremities by narrowing or blocking the vessels supplying these parts.

Rheumatic heart disease 

It is a disease that causes damage to the heart muscle and valves due to rheumatic fever. It is a systemic immune problem caused by this fever due to a beta-hemolytic streptococcal infection. 

Rheumatic disease is one of the critical forms of acquired heart disease in children and adults globally. 

Congenital heart disease 

It is a congenital disability that affects the normal way the heart works. The condition appears due to malformations of the heart structure from birth. 

Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism

A disease includes blood clots in the veins of the legs, which may move to the heart and lungs. The condition, like Deep vein thrombosis, is usually in the lower extremities. And, Pulmonary embolism appears when a part of the Deep vein thrombosis(DVT) clot breaks off and moves to the lungs. It can be life-threatening. 

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease

Some Behavioural factors may also contribute to heart diseases in people. It includes unhealthy diet, lack of physical activities, tobacco use and excessive use of alcohol. These behavioural risk factors can put negatively impact an individual's health. Symptoms such as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, increased blood lipids, and overweight and obesity can be seen under these factors. 

Some other risk factors for Cardiovascular disease are

  • Misuse of prescription or recreational medications
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic inflammatory or autoimmune conditions
  • Toxemia or Preeclampsia

In primary care facilities, these intermediate risk factors can be measured. It may help indicate the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and other complications associated with CVDs. 

Making behavioral changes such as

  • Eat a healthy fiber diet, and add more fruits and vegetables to it
  • Regular physical activities
  • Cessation of Tabacco use
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Reduction of salt in the diet

Making these changes may help you reduce the risk of Cardiovascular disease(CVD).

Also, there are other underlying determinants of Cardiovascular diseases. The major forces that may drive a person under such unhealthy circumstances are social, economic, and cultural changes. It includes globalization, urbanization, and population aging factors. Some other determinants that CVDs include are stress, poverty and hereditary factors.

Thus, Health policies that create conducive environments for health choices are essential. Making them affordable and motivating people to adopt healthy behaviors may help. In addition, Medical treatment, like medications for conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and high blood lipids, is a vital step to reduce the risk of CVDs. Also, it will help to prevent heart attacks, and strokes like life-threatening conditions among people. 

Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases

Usually, no symptoms of an underlying disease are associated with blood vessels. Episodes of a heart attack or a stroke can be the first sign of an underlying cardiovascular disease. Some common symptoms of a heart attack are-

  • Pain and discomfort in the center of the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, the left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back

Also, a person may experience symptoms such as.

Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Faintness
  • A cold sweat
  • Light-headedness
  • Paleness 

Women are more likely to experience these symptoms as compared to men. 

The most common symptoms that a person may experience during a stroke are-

Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or legs is often seen on one side of the body.

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in speaking 
  • Difficulty in seeing with one or both eyes
  • Severe headache and its cause is unknown.
  • Difficulty in walking, loss of balance or coordination
  • Unconsciousness and Fainting

If a person suspects, these symptoms should seek immediate medical care. It is important to encounter a cardiovascular disease as soon as possible. Discuss a doctor so that the management with counseling and medications for the CVDs can begin. 

Management and treatments for cardiovascular diseases

A person suffering from a Cardiovascular disease(CVD) should have access to appropriate technology and medication. Making essential behavioral changes and preventing risk factors may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Primary healthcare with medications may help slow the progression of these health problems. Some basic medications available for the treatment and management of Cardiovascular disease(CVD) are-

  • Aspirin
  • Statins
  • Beta-blockers
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor drugs

A person should immediately manage conditions like a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes, a doctor may suggest you surgical operation to treat CVDs. These surgical methods of treatment are known as-

  • Coronary artery bypass
  • Balloon angioplasty(In this surgical method, a small balloon-like device is threaded through an artery to unblock it. 
  • Artificial heart operations
  • Heart transplantation 

Some medical devices are also used to treat some Cardiovascular diseases. Such devices include prosthetic valves, pacemakers, and patches that help to close the hole in the heart.

Lifestyle changes are also considered to help prevent the risk of Cardiovascular diseases that include-

  • Making changes in your diet.
  • Increasing your aerobic activity.
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco use. 

In conclusion, it is important to understand the causes, risk factors, and symptoms associated with cardiovascular diseases and take the necessary steps to reduce your risk. This includes lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, reducing stress levels, and limiting alcohol consumption. Additionally, medications are also available that can help manage CVDs. Everyone needs to monitor their health closely so that if any problem arises they can get timely medical attention. Taking preventive measures now may help you lead a healthier life in the future.