Cardiovascular disease or CVD is the number one killer in South Africa and research has shown that one in three men and one in four women will have a heart condition before the age of 60. But what exactly is cardiovascular disease and how does it happen?
Let’s take a look at the types of diseases and who could be susceptible to this.
Cardiovascular disease includes all the diseases of the heart and its circulation including coronary heart disease (like heart attacks), heart failure, congenital heart disease and stroke. The types of cardiovascular diseases include:
1. Heart attack
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot restricts blood flow to a part of the heart. If the clot completely cuts off blood flow to the heart, the part of the heart muscle that relies on the supply of blood from that artery begins to die. Many people will survive their first heart attack and are able to return to a normal life, but they will have to make some changes based on the extent of damage to the heart.
2. Ischemic stroke
This is the most common type of cardiovascular disease and happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked – also usually from a blood clot. The brain cells in need of the blood will die and this results in inability to carry out some of the previous functions of before, such as walking or talking. A haemorrhagic stroke takes place when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, most likely due to uncontrolled hypertension.
3. Heart failure
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that the heart stops beating, but simply means that the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. The heart needs to work much harder to meet the body’s demand for blood and oxygen. If this is left untreated, it will get worse and could lead to death.
This means that the heartbeat has an abnormal rhythm and there are various types of arrhythmias. The heart can either beat too slow, too fast or irregularly. Bradycardia is when the heart beats too slow – less than 60 beats per minute. Tachycardia is when your heart rate is faster than 100 beats per minute. Arrhythmia can affect the functionality of the heart and could lead to improper supply of blood to the body.
5. Heart valve problems
When the heart valves don’t open enough to allow the needed flow of blood it is called stenosis. Regurgitation is when the heart valves don’t close properly and allow blood to leak through. Mitral valve prolapse is when the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, which could lead to the valves not closing properly.
There are several risk factors for cardiovascular disease including the following:
· High blood pressure
· High blood cholesterol
· Physical inactivity
· Being overweight or obese
· Family history of heart disease
· Gender – men are more susceptible at an earlier age than women
· Age – the older you are, the higher your risk factor.
· Stress management
· Alcohol consumption
The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing CVD. Make sure that you take care of your heart and reduce your risk from an early age!