Cardiovascular Diseases Cardiovascular disease isn't an actual disease in itself. Rather it references a range of disorders affecting not only the heart but the blood as well. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) principally heart disease and stroke is the nation's leading killer. Almost 1 million Americans die of CVD each year which adds up to 42% of all deaths. The death toll alone is a staggering burden but it is only part of the picture. The rest of the picture is filled with individuals who daily struggle with the complications of CVD.

Your heart is a muscle that pumps oxygen rich blood throughout your body. It is divided into two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The left chambers are separated from the right chambers by a wall of tissue. Blood passes from the atria through valves (flaps) that allow blood to flow in one direction into the ventricles. The right side of your heart supplies blood to the lungs. The left side supplies blood to the rest of your body.

Blood vessels carry blood throughout the body. Arteriosclerosis is called hardening of the arteries. The walls of blood vessels become stiffer as time passes. Calcium builds up and becomes many times more concentrated in the wall of a normal artery than it was in childhood. Calcium content is what atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis have in common but in atherosclerosis it occurs in concentrations called plaques; in arteriosclerosis it occurs diffusely. Three proven causes of damage to the wall are elevated levels of cholesterol in the Blood, high blood pressure and tobacco smoke.

Males and people with a family history of premature cardiovascular disease have an increased risk of atherosclerosis. These risk factors can't be controlled. There are risk factors that can be controlled such as cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke, obesity, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure. "PVD is called Peripheral Vascular Disease and refers to a range of disorders that effect blood vessels in the legs, feet, arms, or hands. Blood clots (thrombophebletiis), atherosclerosis and varicose veins are all varieties of PVD." Plaques that rupture form blood clots that can block blood flow or break off and travel to another part of the body. If either happens and blocks a blood vessel that feeds the heart it causes a heart attack.

If it blocks a blood vessel that feeds the rain, it causes a stroke. Today heart attack and stoke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments. For example, clot-busting drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes in progress. Proper exercise and diet can contribute to the prevention of heart attacks and strokes as well. Warning signs can help prevent heart attacks and strokes too if you go to a doctor.

Chest discomforts, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, are warning signs for heart attack. Warning signs for a stroke are sudden numbness or weakness of the face or arm especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, sudden trouble seeing, or severe headache with no known cause. High blood pressure often results from excess fat or plaque buildup because of the extra effort it takes to circulate blood. Even though the heart works harder, blockages still shortchange the needed blood supply to all areas of the body.

Another disease caused by lack of oxygen is Angina Pectoris. "Angina occurs when the heart needs more blood. Angina is a sign that someone is at increased risk of heart attack. They will feel an uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest." Running to catch a bus could trigger an attack of angina while walking might not. Angina may happen during exercise, strong emotions or extreme temperature. Congestive heart failure is not a disease but a condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body's tissues.

When the heart fails, it is unable to pump out all the blood that enters its chambers. Heart failure can be a direct result of heart damage from one or more of several heart or circulation diseases. It can also occur over time as the heart tries to compensate for abnormalities. Risk factors for heart failure are age, gender, ethnicity, family history and chronic alcohol abuse. Symptoms of heart failure result from the congestion that develops as fluid backs up into the lungs and leaks into the tissues. Other symptoms result from inadequate delivery of oxygen rich blood to the body's tissues.

Since heart failure can progress rapidly it is essential to consult a physician immediately if any of the following symptoms occur; shortness of breath, weakness, problems breathing, need to go to the bathroom frequently, swollen ankles, dizzy spells. Treating heart failure at an early stage offers the best chance for a longer and better quality life. Your treatment plan may include medications to help your heart, changes in your diet to reduce the amount of salt you eat, rest, activity recommended by your physician, and lifestyle changes. People who are sedentary have twice the risk of heart disease as those who are physically active. There are many different kinds of cardiovascular diseases. If you listen to the signs and get exercise most of these symptoms can be prevented.

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