Cardiovascular disease affects thousands of people each year and is the biggest killer in the UK. Cardiovascular disease refers to heart disease and conditions which affect the circulatory system, such as strokes. Men are more likely to suffer from these conditions than women and are more likely to die from these conditions than women under the age of 75. Men are also commonly diagnosed with these illnesses earlier in their lives than women. According to the NHS, somebody in this country has a stroke every 5 minutes and heart disease claims the lives of a quarter of men.
What causes heart disease?
Heart disease can be caused by a number of different factors; these include:
- Heavy drinking
- Drug abuse
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history
Symptoms of cardiovascular disease
There are many different symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Symptoms of heart disease include:
- Heart palpitations: heart palpitations occur when the heart beats irregularly; usually palpitations make the heart race. Palpitations are a symptom of heart disease but they may also be indicative of other health conditions and they are sometimes associated with blood sugar levels, fear and adrenalin production. It is important to get checked out by a doctor if you have palpitations, just in case it is a symptom of heart disease.
- Heart failure: heart failure can happen suddenly (acute heart failure) or over a long period of time (chronic heart failure). Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes weakened and can’t continue to pump blood around the body any longer.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction): heart attacks can occur at any time and require emergency treatment. Symptoms of a heart attack include tightening in the chest, pain in the arms, sweating, dizziness and nausea. Heart attacks can prove fatal in some cases so it is important to seek medical help as quickly as possible.
- Angina: angina is often a chronic illness, which comes and goes. It often causes short bouts of chest pain, which can last between 2 and 15 minutes. Angina is usually treated effectively with medication.
Symptoms of strokes
You should look out for the FAST symptoms:
- F- Face: the face usually falls on one side and the patient is usually unable to smile
- A- Arms: is the person able to lift their arms up in the air?
- S- Speech: is the person able to speak? Is their speech slurred?
- T- Time: if the symptoms above are present, it’s time to call 999 and get emergency help
Treating cardiovascular disease
Treatment varies according to the nature of the case and the severity of the situation: in some cases, conditions are managed effectively with a combination of medications, physiotherapy and an alteration in lifestyle. In more complex cases, surgery is often required; surgery can clear blockages, widen arteries and repair damage to tissue.
Preventing cardiovascular disease
There are a number of different things you can do to reduce the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease; these include:
- Get active: regular exercise will keep the heart healthy as well as improving circulation and keeping blood pressure and body weight stable
- Eat well: diet can play a huge part in general health; eating wholegrain foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables will improve your general health and protect against illness
- Reduce stress: stress can have a number of harmful effects on your body, so try to take time out to relax
- Reduce cholesterol: high cholesterol can be very damaging to the heart and circulatory system, as it can cause blockages and damage to the arteries. Some foods are high in good cholesterol (HDL- high density lipoprotein); these foods include nuts, olive oil, avocado, oily fish, porridge and fruit and vegetables. You should try to restrict foods that are high in ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL- low density lipoprotein) such as fried food, animal fats, fast food, cheese, cream and lard.
- Stop smoking: stopping smoking can radically improve health and can halve the chances of having a heart attack
- Cut down on drinking: drinking heavily puts pressure on the heart so reducing your alcohol intake can reduce stress on the heart and consequently reduce the chances of having a heart attack
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