The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood vessels, and the blood that is circulated throughout these vessels. The cardiovascular system is powered by the heart and it is responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, and hormones throughout the body. When there is a breakdown or deficiency in the circulatory system, it is often referred to as cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes many different conditions that affect the cardiovascular system. Plaque may build up, narrowing the coronary arteries, and decrease blood flow to the heart. Blood clots may form within blood vessels and block blood flow to the heart or brain. In some cases, cardiovascular disease cannot be prevented. However, it can often be initially treated with healthy life style modifications.
Types of Cardiovascular disease
There are a wide variety of conditions that can affect the heart and blood vessels. Cardiovascular conditions include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart attack
- Heart infections
- Congenital heart defect
- Peripheral artery disease
- Valve damage
Symptoms of cardiovascular disease can vary depending on the specific type. With some forms of cardiovascular disease, there may be no symptoms present at all, until life-threatening complications develop.
Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
There are several risk factors that may contribute to the development of any form of cardiovascular disease. The risk of cardiovascular disease may increase in people who have:
- High blood pressure
- A close relative with heart disease
- A high LDL cholesterol level
- High triglycerides
- A congenital heart defect
- Kidney disease
- A sedentary lifestyle
People who smoke or are obese are also at risk for developing a cardiovascular disease.
Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is diagnosed through a physical examination and a review of symptoms. Additional diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Exercise stress test
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Chest X-ray
In some cases, a coronary angiogram may also be performed. A coronary angiogram is minimally invasive surgical procedure that helps to determine if any coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked.
Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease
Treatment for cardiovascular disease varies, depending on the specific diagnosis. Conservative treatments may include lifestyle and dietary changes and medical monitoring. Treatment for more severe cardiovascular disease conditions may include medications and surgery. Cardiovascular disease is often treated with an individualized treatment plan that best fits the individual case of cardiovascular disease, a person's life style and other factors.
Preventing Cardiovascular Disease
While not all cases of cardiovascular disease can be prevented, there are steps that can be taken that can reduce the risks. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help to keep the heart and arteries functioning properly and the following recommendations may also help to prevent cardiovascular disease:
- Quit smoking
- Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a low-fat diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce and manage stress
Quitting smoking drastically lowers the risk of heart disease, no matter the length of time the patient has smoked. Balancing exercise with diet can be even more effective in staying healthy and preventing cardiovascular disease.
- National Institutes of Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine
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