Cardiovascular Disease

What is Cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease is the number-one cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 1 million lives annually. An estimated 50 million Americans are afflicted with heart and blood vessel disease, though many show no symptoms and so are unaware of the condition.

There are many types of cardiovascular disease, including angina, heart attack, hypertension, heart failure, arrhythmias, and valvular disease. Let's take a quick look at each of these:

• Cardiovascular DiseaseAngina refers to a heavy, tight pain in the chest that occurs after some type of exertion. It happens when the blood vessels narrow and fail to supply the heart with a sufficient amount of oxygen.

• Heart attacks occur when the coronary arteries that carry oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscles become obstructed. Signs of heart attack include pain in the chest that can extend to the shoulder, arm, neck, and jaw. Other signs include sweating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, anxiety, ringing in the ears, loss of speech, and difficulty swallowing. Not everyone experiences the same degree of pain. In fact, many people mistake the signs for indigestion. Others have no symptoms at all, a situation referred to as a "silent heart attack."

• Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure and is very common. It is usually caused by a decrease in the elasticity or a reduction in the interior diameter of the arteries. This form of cardiovascular disease is basically painless. By the time a person experiences the symptoms—rapid pulse, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, and sweating—the condition is more difficult to treat. If untreated, it drastically increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure.

• Heart failure occurs when there is an inadequate flow of blood from the heart. Symptoms include poor color, fatigue, shortness of breath, and edema.

• Arrhythmias are disturbances in the normal rhythm of the heartbeat. Some are dangerous while others are harmless, though annoying.

•  Valvular disease is a term used for disorders that impair the functioning of one or more of the heart's valves. Cardiovascular disease often reaches an advanced stage before detection of symptoms. Experts estimate that 25% of people who have heart attacks had no warning signs or symptoms. Yet every minute, someone in America dies of a heart attack.

The good news is that cardiovascular disease is not an inevitable result of aging, and there are many preventive measures you can take. Controllable factors that can contribute to heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, stress, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes.

Cardiovascular diseaseWhat makes Cardiovascular disease worse?

• Abnormally high blood copper levels are often found in people who have experienced a heart attack. The reason is not totally clear, but it may be that increased levels of copper play a role in the development and progression of this condition, or perhaps the body circulates more copper in an attempt to deal with the condition. Recommendation: Ask your physician for a routine blood test if you want to check your blood copper level. Eliminate all sodium sources from your diet. Any products whose label includes "soda," "sodium," or the symbol "Na" should be avoided.

• Eat a well-balanced diet that contains plenty of fiber. Get your protein from low-fat sources such as broiled fish and skinless turkey or chicken.

• Although the FDA claims that taking 1 baby aspirin daily can reduce the risk of heart attack without side effects, a Harvard Medical School newsletter asserts that there is no sufficient evidence to support this. If you do use aspirin, remember that it can cause internal bleeding and stomach ulceration.

 
 
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