What Is Cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be referred to as heart disease.
This term encompasses a range of different conditions that can all affect your heart and blood vessels (the cardiovascular system)
Many diseases can be listed under this term:
- This includes physical or structural abnormalities of the heart including congenital defects and heart valve problems
- Conduction problems of the heart such as abnormal heart rhythms- arrhythmias or atrial fibrillation
- Diseases of the blood vessels such as atherosclerosis are also part of cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure may even be considered under this term, as it is mostly a disease of the heart and blood vessels.
- Ischaemic Heart Disease (also known as Coronary Artery Disease) is a spectrum of diseases ranging from cardiac chest pain (angina) to myocardial infarction (heart attacks). This also falls under CVD.
- Different tests are used to diagnose CVD. These include ECGs (Electrocardiograms) where leads are placed on the chest, and the electrical conduction of the heart is measured. This is helpful to diagnose arrhythmias, and features of IHD.
- A sonar done on the heart is called an echocardiogram. With this test, the heart’s function can be assessed as well as the valves and ventricles visualised. Cardiac defects can also be seen.
- An MIBI scan can be performed to assess how well the heart’s muscle is functioning and if the blood supply is sufficient (myocardial perfusion).
What Are The Symptoms Of Cardiovascular disease?
The symptoms of CVD depend on the condition affecting the cardiovascular system.
Physical or Structural Abnormalities:
- Valve impairment may present with abnormal heart rhythms, chest pain (angina), dizziness or syncope (fainting/loss of consciousness).
- Congenital or structural abnormalities will usually present soon after birth. Symptoms include fatigue, bluish discolouration of skin and lips, and failure to thrive (poor weight gain despite adequate caloric intake).
- A dilated or enlarged heart in cardiomyopathy of cardiac failure may present with swelling of the legs, shortness of breath on exertion, difficulty breathing when lying down and getting tired quickly.
- Rhythm impairments will usually present with an abnormal heart beat, a feeling that the heart is “racing” in the chest (tachycardia), or an acute awareness of the heart beating quite prominently in the chest (palpitations). Occasional rhythm impairments may cause chest pain or dizziness.
- Ischaemic Heart Disease (IHD) typical present with chest pain. Chest pain originating from the heart is angina. Stable angina is chest pain that occurs during exercise and typically goes away within 10-20 minutes of resting.
- Unstable angina is chest pain that presents at rest and lasts more than 20minutes. This may be suggestive of a high risk of myocardial infarction.
What Are The Causes Of Cardiovascular disease?
Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases such as IHD. Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the lining of blood vessels (called the endothelium). Smoking, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, being overweight and a diet high in fatty acids are contributing causes of atherosclerosis.
Abnormal heart rhythms can be caused by genetic heart defects, IHD, some medications, electrolytes abnormalities (such as potassium or magnesium), emotional or physical stress or excessive use of caffeine or alcohol. Electrical conduction abnormalities can cause arrhythmias. These can be born defects or can develop over time.
The cause of cardiomyopathy, a thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle, may be a congenital condition. High blood pressure or hardening of blood vessels may also contribute to dilatation of the heart.
Valve disease can be congenital, due to infections such as rheumatic fever or disorders affecting the body’s connective tissue.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Cardiovascular disease?
Lifestyle changes are of utmost importance- this includes weight loss, dietary changes, and stress reduction.
Depending on your condition, light to moderate exercise 3 times a week may be recommended. It is important first to clear it with your doctor before you exercise if you have a heart condition.
Stress management. Stress increases the workload on your heart and over time may contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases. It is important to manage stress well when suffering from any heart condition. Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques, may be necessary. Consider changing your work environment if this is your largest stressor.
The heavier your weight, the greater your risk for cardiovascular disease. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a score calculated based on your weight and height. A BMI of 21-25 is considered healthy. Above 25 your risk for CVD increases. If you suffer from CVD, weight loss is of great importance.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Cardiovascular disease?
- Never leave any symptoms of possible heart disease untreated, as it may be potentially fatal. If you suffer from any of the symptoms discussed above consult a doctor.
- Do not take heart disease lightly. Follow the recommendations of your doctor carefully.
What Are The Best Foods For Cardiovascular disease?
- A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans help to lower cholesterol.
- High fibre grains such as whole grain bread, pasta. Oatmeal helps to lower cholesterol. It contains a product called beta-glucan that contributes to lower LDL (the "bad cholesterol).
- Healthy oils such as virgin olive, coconut and almond oils.
- Avocados are high in healthy unsaturated fats.
- Fish high in omega three such as tuna and salmon. The Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week.
- Dark chocolate (more than 70%). Cocoa is a high antioxidant. It contains a bioactive component called flavonoids. It is a great free radical scavenger.
- Fruits those are high in antioxidants such as blueberries, red grapes, and pomegranates.
What Are The Worst Foods For Cardiovascular disease?
- Foods that are high in saturated fatty acids.
- Full-cream dairy products.
- Red meat should be used in moderation as it increases cholesterol levels and contributes to high blood pressure.
What Are The Medicines For Cardiovascular disease?
The treatment of CVD depends on the illness causing it:
Structural abnormalities and congenital defects may need to be addressed with surgery.
Patients with arrhythmias are often started on blood thinning medications such as warfarin, clopidogrel or aspirin. Conduction abnormalities can also be treated with surgery.
IHD's treatment focus is on the treatment of underlying causes such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diet and lifestyle changes.
What Are The Tips To Manage Cardiovascular disease?
A supplement called coenzyme Q10 has shown an increase in cardiovascular performance. Discuss with your doctor before taking supplements.