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Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that describes a wide spectrum of health issues revolving around blood flow to the heart and brain. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every four Americans die from heart disease each year. This makes it the leading cause of death for both men and women.  Though it takes many lives, there are ways to reduce the risk of heart problems. Knowledge is the key to prevention. 

What is the condition?

The American Heart Association defined heart disease, also known as heart and blood vessel disease, in relation to atherosclerosis - plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries. Over time, the plaque can accumulate to a point where it blocks an artery. This makes it impossible for blood to flow to the heart, thus causing a heart attack. 

A heart attack is not the same as heart failure. According to the AHA, the latter, referred to as congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart does not pump blood normally. Here are some other diseases that fall under the category of cardiovascular disease.

  • Heart valve issues: Defined by valve function. Closed valves or ones that will not open properly interfere with blood circulation.
  • Arrhythmia: Related to the heartbeat. A problem occurs when it is too fast or slow.
  • Ischemic stroke: Triggered by a clogged blood vessel leading to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: Caused when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

How is it caused?

As mentioned earlier, atherosclerosis is a predominant cause of cardiovascular disease. It happens gradually due to several factors, many of which stem from lifestyle choices. They include:
  • Smoking
  • Inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Genetics
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure 
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Sometimes there are no symptoms of cardiovascular disease. In these instances, it is called silent coronary heart disease. Other times, painful warning signs alert people that they are having a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem. The symptoms vary depending on the issue.

A person who is having or about to have a heart attack may experience shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, upper back or neck pain, heartburn, discomfort and indigestion. Prior to heart failure, a person may also feel fatigued and have short breaths in addition to swollen ankles, feet, legs and abdomen. 

Because ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke are linked to the brain, the symptoms can be obvious. In some cases, a person who is having a stroke can feel nausea and numbness in the face or on one side of the body. He or she may also lose consciousness. The AHA suggested the use of the acronym F.A.S.T as an easy way to identify the side effects. It stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911.

If a person experiences any of the aforementioned symptoms or feels that he or she may be having a heart issue, he or she should call 911 immediately. Medical professionals will be able to treat any ailments and diagnose the issue so future health problems can be minimized. 

How can you treat it?

Following a heart attack, stroke or other heart issue, doctors typically prescribe medication to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure. The patient is responsible for the majority of the treatment. A lifestyle change will be necessary to prevent a second heart attack or stroke.

These alterations include incorporating physical activity into daily routine, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding fatty and unhealthy foods, quitting smoking, and seeking therapy for depression and stress. The last two are important because they are triggers of cardiovascular problems.

 Supplements that may help

Supplements may also reduce the risk of heart disease as well as alleviate related symptoms. These include:

As cardiovascular disease may vary with each individual case, it is best to consult a doctor prior to taking supplements or trying alternative forms of medicine. But with a physician's approval, supplements can be an affordable, easy way to promote heart health. 


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