Also known as cardiovascular disease, heart diseases are some conditions affecting the heart, or the blood vessels like capillaries, veins and arteries.
Thus, any disease that involves the cardiovascular system is what is referred to as cardiovascular disease. These include the cardiac and vascular health conditions that affect the brain and the kidney as well as the peripheral disease of the artery.
Although there exist numerous causes of heart disease, the most common ones are hypertension and atherosclerosis. However, age also plays a critical role in this course; thus old age comes with a number of morphological and physiological changes which affect the functioning of the cardiovascular system thereby increasing the risks of heart diseases in individuals regardless of whether they were asymptomatic and healthy.
It is believed that heart disease is the major cause of deaths worldwide. However, research has shown a considerable decline of the deaths resulting from cardiovascular conditions in the economically stable countries but the cases have greatly increased in less developed countries. Although this is a common health condition in adults, it is believed that atherosclerosis starts at the early stages of life. This therefore calls for prevention mechanisms to be set right from the tender age. The best way to avert atherosclerosis is by shunning unhealthy practices such as smoking, unhealthy dieting and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
The risk factors
There are proven findings that point at gender, age, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, sugar, family history, lack of physical exercise, obesity, diabetes, some psychological factors and contaminated air among other factors as the most probable risk factors of heart disease.
However, it is good to understand that, these risk factors contribute to heart disease in different ways depending on ethnicity or communities. Age, family history or gender cannot be overlooked as they contribute greatly to this condition. There are those risk factors which can be modified – the kind of lifestyles we lead, social change or drug treatments.
Age plays a critical role in increasing the risks of contracting heart disease. It is believed that each decade witnesses a tripled number of health conditions associated with age. Scientific research indicates that 87% of deaths are adults at the age of 60 and above. In addition, stroke risk is known to double at the age 55.
It is believed that men stand at a greater chance of developing heart conditions as compared to women who have not attained menopause. Although it had earlier on been indicated that women are equally at a higher risk of developing heart disease, the recent revelation by WHO has put men at the top.
Coronary heart diseases occurs 2-5 times more often in men than women in mid-age. WHO has revealed that there exists a 40% variation in the gender ratios of deaths caused by coronary heart disease. As such, there is, though not proven, a belief that estrogen is responsible for this variation and it offers protection to the haemostatic system through metabolism of glucose and that it directly improves the functioning of the endothelial cell; thus, estrogen levels fall after a woman attains menopause.
A woman who may have attained menopause earlier than it is normal, naturally or through hysterectomy is 2 times at risk of developing heart disease as compared to a woman in the same age bracket who has not yet attained menopause.
Pathophysiological risk factors
Studies have shown that atherosclerosis begins at the childhood stage. Considering that 1 out 3 people die of atherosclerosis, it is good to devise preventive measures in the early stages of life. Diabetes and obesity are highly associated with heart disease. Others include hypercholesterolaemia, and persistent kidney disease. If there any life threatening health conditions, then cardiovascular disease tops the list of diseases associated with diabetes. Thus 2 to 4 people with diabetes are likely to die as compared to those who are not diabetic.
Screening of heart disease in patients
People with no heart disease symptoms are not recommended to undergo ECG screening. But for those who are highly exposed to the risk factors, this screening may not provide conclusive results
Preventive measures include;
• Feeding on diets which are rich in fiber, low fats (whole grains, vegetables and fruits) 5 portions per day
• Shun smoking
• Reduce alcohol consumption
• Lowering blood pressure in case it rises
• Weight loss
• Avoid stress
• Exercise regularly
• Avoid consuming too much sugar
Attending counseling classes can also help to reduce the risks of developing heart disease as this may involve advice to shun unhealthy practices especially in people who have no known risk factors of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes or heart disease. Exercise and healthy dieting in this case can be of great importance to a person’s health. The two help to keep the body healthy and active; hence, keeping off various health complications.