Heart health is a topic that should be on everyone’s mind. With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death worldwide, it’s vital to have a good understanding of the risk factors and prevention strategies to guard against this silent killer. You can learn more here about the common causes of cardiovascular disease and how you can prevent it from affecting your life.
What Is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a collection of diseases involving the heart or blood vessels. It includes conditions such as coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, heart failure,and arrhythmias, among others.
These conditions predominantly arise due to a build-up of fatty deposits, or plaque, inside the arteries, which can lead to blockages, reduced blood flow, and hardening of the arteries –a process known as atherosclerosis. Other factors can also affect blood flow to areas of the body, such as a blood clot, or scarring of the heart.
Cardiovascular diseases can become life threatening if left untreated, as they can prevent blood flow to major organs, such as the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
What Are the Causes of Cardiovascular Disease?
There are several factors that can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. The most common factors include:
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – one of the key risk factors for CVD. Overtime, poorly controlled hypertension can weaken and damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- High Blood Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood can lead to plaque formation in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Poor Diet – Consuming large amounts of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugars can speed up the formation of plaque inside the arteries, leading to high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and obesity, all of which increase the risk of CVD.
- Lack of Physical Activity– Inactivity can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels. It’s essential to maintain a regular exercise routine to keep your heart healthy.
- Tobacco Use– Smoking or using other tobacco products can damage blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Diabetes –Poorly managed diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels, which over time can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves, increasing the risk of heart disease.
- Obesity – Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which are risk factors of CVD.
- Family History– A family history of cardiovascular disease can place you at an increased risk for developing the condition.
- Age, Gender, and Ethnicity – As you age, your risk of CVD increases. Men tend to have a higher risk of heart disease than women, although the risk for women increases after menopause. Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities are also at higher risk of CVD.
When to See a Doctor
Regular check-ups and health screenings with your healthcare provider are essential for maintaining good heart health. Conditions such as high cholesterol and hypertension rarely have symptoms and can often only be identified with routine tests, such as a blood test.
However, some symptoms may suggest you need to seek medical attention right away. These include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting or near fainting
- Unexplained rapid or irregular heartbeat
If you or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance, as they may signal a heart attack or another life-threatening condition.
How to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
While genetics play a role and some risk factors for heart disease are beyond our control, the majority of CVD can be prevented by addressing behavioral risk factors and unhealthy lifestyle choices,such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. There are several important steps you can take to protect your heart and reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.
- Get physically active, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
- Lose excess weight, which contributes to high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and diabetes–all of which increase your risk of heart disease. Aim for a healthy rate of weight loss (1-2 pounds per week) and talk with your doctor about any diet or exercise plan you’re considering.
- Quit smoking. If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies for quitting and consider using nicotine replacement products or medications to help in the process.
- Take medications. If you already have a cardiovascular condition, it’s important to follow advice from your healthcare provider when it comes to taking any prescribed medications or supplements. Doing so can help lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- See your doctor regularly. Preventative care is the best way to take control of your health. Make regular visits to your healthcare provider for check-ups and talk to them if any symptoms arise.
With the right lifestyle changes and keeping on top of your health, you can enjoy a healthy life free from cardiovascular-related diseases.
Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care in Northern New Jersey
If you have cardiovascular issues or at increased risk of developing CVD, visit the compassionate, highly-skilled providers at Hudson MD Group. Our expert providers offer primary and specialty medical care for patients of all ages, and we have care centers conveniently located throughout northern New Jersey. We pride ourselves in delivering high quality medical attention and treatments to our patients wherever they are.
To learn more about our comprehensive medical services or to book a consultationwith one of our expert providers, call us at (973) 705-4914 or contact us at the location nearest to you. You can also contact us online.