Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular disease is a term used to describe a set of illnesses that affect both the heart and blood vessels. Such disorders may affect one or more components of the heart or the blood vessels. Patients with the condition can be symptomatic (experiencing the disease-related symptoms) or asymptomatic (not experiencing anything).

Whereas cardiovascular diseases are life-threatening, it is also avoidable in most cases. Early adoption of healthy living choices will help you live longer and have a healthier heart.

 

Types of Cardiovascular Diseases 

There are numerous types of cardiovascular diseases, including but not limited to the following:

Aortic illness: This is a dilatation or aneurysm of the main blood vessel that transports blood from the heart towards the brain and other parts of the body. 

Arrhythmia: A disorder with the heart's electrical conduction system that causes irregular heart pulses or heart rates. 

Cerebrovascular disease: This is a constriction or blockage of the blood arteries that transport blood to the brain.

Congenital heart disease: This is a heart disorder that affects various sections of the heart and is present at birth.

Coronary artery disease: This is a problem with the heart's blood vessels, including blockages or obstruction.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This is a blockage within the veins that return blood from the brain and the rest of the body towards the heart. 

Heart failure: It is characterized by an issue with the heart's pumping and relaxing processes, resulting in fluid accumulation and shortness of breath.

Pericardial disease: This refers to problems with the heart's lining, such as pericarditis and pericardial effusion.

Peripheral artery disease: This is a constriction or blockage of the blood vessels within the arms, legs, or even the abdominal organs.

Valve disease: This is characterized by tightness or leakage of the heart valves. The heart valves are the structures that facilitate blood flow within the blood vessel or from one chamber to another chamber. 

 

Signs and Symptoms of Cardiovascular Diseases 

Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases can vary based on the underlying cause. However, you may experience the following; 

  • Tightness or pressure in the chest 
  • Difficulty when it comes to catching breath.
  • Feeling dizzy or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Accumulation of fluid
  • Palpitations of the heart (heart pounding or racing)
  • Numbness or pain in the legs or arms
  • Pain in the abdomen, nausea, and vomiting

You should also note that women and the elderly may experience milder symptoms. Nevertheless, they still experience severe cardiovascular diseases. 

Sometimes, the cardiovascular disease symptoms in women can be mistaken for those of other illnesses, including menopause, depression, and anxiousness.

The most common signs and symptoms of cardiovascular diseases in women are; 

  • A chilly sweat
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness 
  • Indigestion or soreness in the chest and stomach that feels like it's filled with gas
  • Jaw ache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck ache and backache
  • Paleness 
  • Passing out or fainting

 

Causes of Cardiovascular Diseases 

The underlying causes of cardiovascular diseases often differ based on the type of disease. Plaque buildup within the arteries (atherosclerosis), for example, causes peripheral artery disease and coronary artery disease. Scarring of the cardiac muscle, coronary artery disease, genetic issues, drugs, etc., can all cause arrhythmias. Aging, rheumatic disease, infections, and other factors can all contribute to valve dysfunction.

In addition, the following cardiovascular diseases risk factors increase the chances of developing the condition; 

  • High blood pressure (or hypertension)
  • High cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia)
  • Use of tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Family background with cardiovascular diseases
  • Obesity or living a sedentary lifestyle
  • High-sodium, high-sugar, and high-fat diet
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Toxemia or preeclampsia
  • High blood sugar during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • Inflammatory or autoimmune diseases that last for a long time
  • Chronic renal condition 

 

Cardiovascular Diseases Diagnosis 

When it comes to cardiovascular diseases diagnosis, the physician will first begin with a physical examination. He or she can also inquire about your medical history as well as your family background. Other diagnostic tests and procedures you will require to diagnose cardiovascular diseases will depend on the doctor's suspicions. 

Diagnosis tests for cardiovascular diseases, in addition to blood tests and a chest x-ray, may include the following; 

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This is a painless and rapid examination that monitors the heart's electric signals. It can also detect irregular cardiac rhythms. An ECG can be performed while at rest or while you're exercising, a procedure known as stress electrocardiogram. 
  • Echocardiogram: This is a noninvasive test that employs sound waves to create comprehensive pictures of the structure of the heart. It depicts how the heart pumps blood and beats.
  • Holter monitoring: This is a method that keeps track of your heart rate. A Holter monitor is a portable ECG gadget you wear for 24 to 72 hours to record the heart rhythm. Physicians can use Holter monitoring to check for heart rhythm issues that a standard ECG does not detect.
  • A stress test: During this test, the doctor will increase your heart rate through exercise or medication. This is done while conducting cardiac tests and imaging to see how your heart reacts. 
  • Catheterization of the heart: This procedure involves inserting a short tube or sheath into the vein or artery located in the arm or leg (groin). Through the sheath, a hollow, elastic, long tube is inserted (guide catheter). The doctor will then cautiously threads the catheter via the artery towards the heart, using x-ray pictures on the screen as a guide.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart: This technique creates comprehensive heart pictures using a strong magnetic field and radio waves (computer-generated). 
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan of the heart: You will recline on a table within a doughnut-shaped device during this procedure. The machine's x-ray tube moves around the body, collecting pictures of the heart and chest. 

 

Cardiovascular Diseases Treatment Options 

The cardiovascular diseases treatment will be determined by the type of heart condition you have. The following are the most common treatments options for heart disease; 

  • Lifestyle modification: Adjusting your lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. You can achieve this by consuming a low fat and sodium diet, taking about 30 minutes of moderate workout and training several days a week, avoid smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption. 
  • Medications: In case lifestyle changes are not enough to manage cardiovascular diseases, the doctor can prescribe some drugs. The medication you get will be determined by the type of cardiovascular disease you have.
  • Surgical procedures or medical procedures: Your doctor may suggest certain procedures or surgery if medications and lifestyle changes fail to control cardiovascular diseases. The kind of procedure or surgery you need will be determined by the type of heart disease you have and the degree of the heart's damage.

 

Complications of Cardiovascular Diseases 

The following are some of the complications of cardiovascular diseases:

Heart failure: This happens when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the basic requirements of the body. Heart failure is generally one of the most prevalent complications of cardiovascular diseases. Many types of cardiac illness, such as circulatory disease, heart defects, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and heart infections, can lead to heart failure. 

Stroke: The same risk factors that cause cardiovascular diseases can cause an ischemic stroke. It occurs if the arteries leading to the brain become restricted or clogged, allowing insufficient blood to reach the brain. Generally, a stroke is a medical emergency issue because brain tissue starts to die in only a few minutes of the condition. 

A heart attack: This usually occurs due to a blood clot obstructing blood circulation via a blood vessel supplying to the heart. The attack can potentially injure or destroy a section of the heart muscle. A heart attack can be caused by atherosclerosis. 

Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a bulging within the arterial wall that can occur in any part of the body. It’s usually a dangerous complication of cardiovascular diseases. You may have fatal internal bleeding if an aneurysm ruptures. 

Sudden cardiac arrest: Unexpected cardiac arrest is characterized by loss of cardiac function, respiration, and consciousness that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly, usually as a result of an arrhythmia. Sudden cardiac arrest is usually a medical emergency that can lead to abrupt cardiac death if not addressed right away. 

Peripheral artery disease: This condition occurs when blood circulation to the extremities, mostly your legs, is insufficient. This results in symptoms, the most common of which is leg pain during walking (claudication). Peripheral artery disease can also be caused by atherosclerosis.

 

Conclusion 

Cardiovascular diseases involve a group of diseases that usually affects the heart and the blood vessels. It’s mostly associated with the accumulation of fat deposits in the arteries and increased blood clot risk. Cardiovascular diseases can result in stroke or heart attacks if not treated appropriately. 

To address cardiovascular diseases, you might need to make lifestyle modifications or use prescribed drugs. Early detection can aid in effective and successful treatment. Besides, most patients with cardiovascular diseases lead full and active lives.