What Is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)?

Cardiovascular disease can refer to a number of conditions:

Heart disease: Also called heart and blood vessel disease, this includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. This condition develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. The buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can block the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Most people survive their first heart attack and return to their normal lives, enjoying many more years of productive activity. But experiencing a heart attack does mean that you need to make some changes in medications and lifestyles.

Stroke: An ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke) occurs when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, some brain cells will begin to die. This can result in the loss of functions controlled by that part of the brain, such as walking or talking.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts. This is most often caused by uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure). Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after being starved of oxygen. These cells are never replaced.

The good news is that sometimes brain cells don’t die during stroke — instead, the damage is temporary. Over time, as injured cells repair themselves, previously impaired function improves. (In other cases, undamaged brain cells nearby may take over for the areas of the brain that were injured).

Either way, 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, this means the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. Heart failure does not mean that the heart stops beating — that’s a common misperception. Instead, the heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met. Heart failure can get worse if left untreated.

Arrhythmia: This refers to an abnormal heart rhythm. There are various types of arrhythmias. The heart can beat too slow (less than 60 beats per minute), too fast (over 100 beats per minute) or irregularly. 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.

How Are Diagnostic Tests Done?

In the hospital and during the first few weeks at home, the doctor may perform several tests and procedures. These tests help the doctor determine what caused the CVD, and how much damage was done. Some tests monitor progress to see if treatment is working.

What Are The Various Methods To Treat CVD?

Surgery as well as the medications prescribed in the wake of a cardiac event can aid in recovery and work to prevent another stroke or heart attack. If you’re a caregiver, make it your responsibility to help your loved one take medications as directed and on time. Educate yourself about the medications that your loved one must take. Know what those medicines do, and what their goal is.

What Lifestyle Changes Can Prevent And Treat CVD?

A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. Make the simple steps below part of your life for long-term benefits to your health and your heart.

  • Start by knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. Nutrition and calorie information on food labels is typically based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. You may need fewer or more calories depending on several factors including age, gender, and level of physical activity.
  • If you are trying not to gain weight, don’t eat more calories than you know you can burn up every day.
  • Increase the amount and intensity of your physical activity to burn more calories.
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week.
  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. Nutrient-rich foods have minerals, protein, whole grains and other nutrients but are lower in calories. An overall healthy dietary pattern should emphasize a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes.
  • Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. Use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you probably wouldn’t get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients.
  • Live tobacco free. Don’t smoke or use tobacco or nicotine products — and avoid secondhand smoke or vapour.

Content source: Heart.org

Consult Dr. Renuka