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Cardiovascular Disease or Illnesses – Facts, Risk Factors, Symptoms

Main facts of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the essential killer globally: more people die each year from cardiovascular disease than from any other cause.

Deaths from cardiovascular disease are estimated at 17.7 million, or 31% of total global humanity. Of these deaths, a probable 7.4 million are because of coronary heart disease and 6.7 million to stroke (2015 figures).

Further, three-quarters of cardiovascular disease deaths happen in low- and middle-income countries.

Of the 17 million deaths occurring before age 70 and related to non-communicable diseases, 82% occur in low- and middle-income countries, and 37% are attributable to cardiovascular disease.

Using population-wide strategies, most cardiovascular diseases preventing by addressing behavioural risk factors – smoking, unhealthy eating and obesity, physical inactivity, and harmful alcohol use.

People suffering from cardiovascular disease or at significant risk of cardiovascular disease (due to the presence of one or more risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia or an already established disease) require early detection and care, including psychological support and medication, as needed.

What are Cardiovascular Diseases?

Cardiovascular disease is a collection of disorders disturbing the heart and blood vessels, which includes:

  • coronary heart disease (affecting the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle)
  • cerebrovascular disease (affecting the blood vessels that supply the brain)
  • peripheral arterial disease (affecting the blood vessels that supply the arms and legs)
  • rheumatic heart disease, affecting the muscle and valves of the heart and resulting from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcus bacteria
  • congenital heart defects (defects in the structure of the soul already present at birth)
  • deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (obstruction of the veins in the legs by a blood clot, which may be released and migrate to the heart or lungs).

Heart attacks and strokes are frequently acute events mainly due to a blocked artery preventing blood from reaching the heart or brain. Their most common cause is the build-up of a fatty deposit on the internal walls of the blood vessels supplying these organs. Strokes can also result from bleeding from a brain blood vessel or clots.

Heart attacks and strokes are usually due to several associated risk factors: smoking, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol use, hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia.

What are the risk factors of Cardiovascular Disease?

The highest risk factors for heart disease and stroke are poor diet, physical activity, smoking, and harmful alcohol use.

The effects of behavioural risk factors can lead to hypertension, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, overweight and obesity in people. These intermediate-risk factors can be evaluated in primary health care settings and indicate an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and other complications.

Quitting smoking, reducing salt intake in your diet, consuming fruits and vegetables, participating in regular physical activity, and avoiding the harmful use of alcohol have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, drug treatment for diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia may be necessary to decrease cardiovascular risk and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Health policies, which create the right conditions for making good health choices both affordable and possible, are essential to encourage people to adopt and stick to healthy behaviour.

There are also several causal determinants of cardiovascular disease. They come from the main social, economic, and cultural developments – globalization, urbanization, and population ageing. Other determinants of cardiovascular disease are poverty, stress and hereditary factors.

What are the common symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease?

Symptoms of heart attacks and strokes

The cardiovascular disease affecting the blood vessels often does not give any symptoms. Sometimes a heart attack or stroke is the first sign of the underlying condition.

In particular, a heart attack can cause the following symptoms:

  • pain or anxiety in the central part of the chest;
  • discomfort or pain in the arms left shoulder, elbows, jaw or back.

Furthermore, the person may have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, feel unwell or vomit, feel dizzy or pass out, have a cold sweat, or turn pale. Women are more likely to experience difficulty breathing or nausea, vomit, or have pain in the jaw or back.

The supreme common symptom is a sudden feeling of weakness in the face, arm or leg, most often on only one side of the body. A stroke can also cause the following symptoms to appear suddenly:

  • numbness of the face, arms or legs, mainly on one side of the body;
  • confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech;
  • visual problems affecting one or both eyes;
  • severe headache with no known cause and syncope or loss of consciousness.
  • Difficulty walking, loss of balance or coordination, dizziness;

People with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Why is Cardiovascular Disease a development issue for low- and middle-income countries?

More than three-quarters of cardiovascular disease deaths worldwide occur in low- and middle-income countries. People in low- and middle-income countries often cannot benefit from integrated primary health care programs for the early detection and treatment of those at risk compared to high-income countries.

As a result, they die younger from cardiovascular disease or other non-communicable diseases, often in their most productive years. The poorest people in low- and middle-income countries are the hardest hit. There is ample evidence that cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases contribute to household poverty due to catastrophic health costs and the high level of out-of-pocket payments they face. At the macroeconomic level, the cardiovascular disease takes a heavy toll on the economies of low- and middle-income countries.

How to reduce the burden of Cardiovascular Disease?

WHO has identified efficient and cost-effective interventions that can implement even where resources are scarce to fight cardiovascular disease. They have two components: at the population level and the individual level, and it recommends combining them to reduce the very high burden of cardiovascular disease.

Examples of population-wide interventions that can apply to reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease include:

  • comprehensive tobacco control strategies;
  • policies to tax food products high in fat, sugar and salt;
  • the development of pedestrian and cycle paths to increase the physical activity of the population;
  • strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
  • the provision of healthy meals in schools.

To prevent heart attacks and strokes, individual interventions should target people with a moderate to high total cardiovascular risk or people whose risk factor exceeds the recommended thresholds for treatment, such as diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

More Information:

The first intervention (integrated consideration of the real risk) is more cost-effective than the second and could substantially reduce cardiovascular events. However, this approach can consider primary health care in developing countries, including non-physician health professionals.

About the secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases for people suffering from a proven disease, including diabetes, the following treatment should be applied:

  • aspirin;
  • beta-blockers;
  • angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors; me.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors;

The effects of these interventions are, for the most part, independent, but when smoking cessation combines with it, nearly 75% of recurrent vascular accidents can prevent. There are significant disparities in implementing these interventions, especially at the primary health care level.

In addition, expensive surgical procedures are sometimes required to treat cardiovascular disease, including:

  • bypass surgery;
  • balloon angioplasty (passing a device resembling a small balloon through an artery to unclog it);
  • repair and replacement of heart valves;
  • heart transplant;
  • artificial heart implantations.

Medical devices are needed to treat certain cardiovascular diseases, namely: pacemakers, prosthetic valves and patches to seal heart defects.

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