According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 50% of Americans have a factor that puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease. The disease comes in various forms and affects thousands of people in the United States each year. You may find yourself wondering if you are susceptible to this widespread disease and what you can do to prevent it.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Also known as heart disease, this term refers to conditions that negatively impact the heart. The spectrum of inflictions is broad, but this disease is usually connected with problems with blood vessels, such as narrowing due to a buildup of plaque; arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat) or congenital heart disorders (a birth defect of the heart). These can lead to serious medical problems down the road like a heart attack or stroke.
What are the most common types?
- Coronary artery disease: Atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque within arteries, causes blood vessels supplying the heart to narrow over time, making them less flexible and more susceptible to burst from pressure. Blood flow to organs and tissue may also be inhibited. This is the most common form of heart disease that frequently leads to heart attacks. The CDC states that this disease kills over 370,000 people in the U.S. every year.
- Heart failure: While the heart does not stop working altogether, it becomes weaker and pumps less blood than normal.
- Cardiomyopathy: The heart’s muscles may grow thicker, stiffer or larger, making it a less efficient pump.
- Peripheral artery disease: This is the result of narrowed vessels throughout the body that do not provide enough blood to the limbs.
What are signs?
Symptoms can differ depending on the kind of heart disease, and the CDC notes that many people do not discover they have a problem until after a heart attack. Chest discomfort, arm or shoulder pain, having a difficult time breathing and fatigue or lightheadedness can all be indications of a heart attack.
Can cardiovascular disease be prevented?
Some causes, such as birth deformities in the heart and irregular heartbeats, are not controllable. Other factors, however, can be managed: smoking, obesity, exercise, stress and diet may all contribute to increased chances of cardiovascular disease. The Mayo Clinic suggests maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and managing high blood pressure.
How many people does cardiovascular disease affect?
The CDC reports that each year over 600,000 men and women in the United States die due to cardiovascular diseases, and over 100,000 more suffer from heart attacks.
Who is most at risk?
Age, sex, genetics, exercise, smoking and weight all play roles in contributing to heart disease. The Mayo Clinic reports that older men are more at risk than women, though women’s chances may increase after menopause. Someone with obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes may also be at a greater risk of developing heart disease, though the CDC notes that it can also occur in children.
If you are concerned you might be suffering from a cardiovascular disease, seek out professional medical help. Doctors can perform various tests to diagnose heart disease. Learning about preventative measures now can save you time and worry in the future.
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