Cardiovascular diseases covers conditions of the heart and circulation. In the UK, approximately 7 million people are living with a cardiovascular disease.
The cardiovascular system is composed of the heart, the blood vessels, and the blood. The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of the body through a system of blood vessels. This system consists of blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart called arteries, and blood vessels which return the blood to the heart called veins. The primary function of the blood is to transport oxygen from the lungs and nutrients from the intestine to all cells of the body. Simultaneously, the blood removes carbon dioxide, waste products, and heat for excretion.
Cardiovascular diseases is a collective term covering conditions of the heart (cardiac) and blood vessels (vasculature). The most frequent types of cardiac diseases include atrial fibrillation, angina, and heart failure. The most frequent types of vascular diseases include high blood pressure (hypertension), blood clots (thrombosis), and atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the deposition of lipids, cholesterol and other substances in the walls of the blood vessels in deposits called plaques.
There are many different factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
- Hypertension – Increases the risk of atherosclerosis and damage of the heart.
- Hyperlipidemia – High levels of cholesterol result in deposition of cholesterol in the arteries.
- Age – The incidence of atherosclerosis increases with age.
- Genetic – Specific gene mutations are associated with an increased risk.
- Gender – Men and premenopausal women are at higher risk.
- Diabetes – Diabetics are at increased risk of atherosclerosis.
- Physical inactivity – Results in high blood pressure and other risk factors.
- Lifestyle – High fat diet and smoking can increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
Many of the risk factors result in atherosclerosis, which can be the cause of other cardiovascular conditions.
Signs and Symptoms
Each cardiovascular condition is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms. The most general symptoms for cardiovascular diseases include:
- Chest pain – Chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest.
- Pain in upper body – That can be in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath – Can happen both when active or at rest.
- Oedema – Swelling caused by body fluid in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen.
- Increased heart rate – Feels like the heart is racing.
There are many treatment options available for patients with cardiovascular diseases depending on the individual diagnosis.
The patient has some different possibilities for self-management.
- Manage weight – Overweight is avoided by regular exercise and a healthy diet.
- Exercise – Regular exercise is very beneficial.
- Diet – A healthy diet with low fat will reduce the level of cholesterol.
- Smoking – Stop or reduce smoking.
The medical treatment depends on the type of cardiovascular disease, and many different medicines are available. Diseases involving thrombosis are often treated with antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants. Diseases involving atherosclerosis are often treated with lipid lowering agents whereas hypertension can be treated with vasodilators.
- Antiplatelet agents– Reduce the ability of the blood to clot thereby preventing the formation of a thrombus. An example include Brilique.
- Anticoagulants – Reduce the ability of the blood to clot thereby preventing the formation of a thrombus. Examples include Pradaxa, Fragmin, Xarelto, Eliquis, and Coumadin.
- Lipid lowering agents – Reduce the amount of the bad cholesterol in the blood. Examples include Crestor and Zetia.
- Vasodilators – Reduce the blood pressure by opening up the blood vessels. An example include Tracleer.