Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide killing over 17 million people annually. Approximately 31% of all deaths globally are due to cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks and strokes cause 80% of all deaths brought about by CVDs.
The term ‘Cardiovascular diseases’ refers to disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels such as rheumatic heart disease, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia and stroke, among others.
These conditions can be caused by several factors including birth defects, lifestyle issues like smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity, among other factors.
Apart from chest pains which are common for heart diseases, fatigue, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and dizziness are some of the other symptoms that people with heart conditions can experience. They can be diagnosed using tests like electrocardiogram, Holter monitor and imaging tests like computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
The treatment of CVDs depends on the type of condition and a person’s general health. The common treatments done for CVDs are surgery and the use of medication.
How do you prevent Cardiovascular Diseases?
Some cardiovascular diseases are almost impossible to prevent; however, you can reduce your risk for such conditions by:
- Not smoking: Smoking is one of the leading causes of CVDs; if you smoke, you should quit and if you do not, then do not start. Apart from heart conditions, smoking can cause other health conditions like lung cancer among several other cancers. Smoking raises blood pressure putting you at a higher risk of CVDs like stroke and heart attack.
- Limit alcohol intake: More than two drinks of alcohol a day is too much alcohol. Like smoking, too much alcohol, can bring about conditions like hypertension which can increase the risk of CVDs.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, vegetables and fruits. As you increase the quantity of heart-healthy foods, reduce the intake of foods with added sugars, saturated fats and those that are high in sodium. This will help in lowering blood pressure and your cholesterol level, thereby reducing your CVD risk. Eating healthy is good but without sufficient water, you are not having a well-balanced diet. Water is important as it aids in blood flow, digestion, elimination of waste from the body and in protecting the body’s tissues, among many other ways that contribute to the overall health of an individual.
- Manage health conditions: Some diseases like hypertension and diabetes increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and they must be kept in check. Get regular health screening for such conditions and also ensure that your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are checked as well.
- Manage your weight: Find out your body mass index (BMI) because that will help you work towards a more defined goal in terms of having the right weight. Overweightness and obesity play a huge role in causing heart conditions, especially with cheap fast foods and lots of junk foods being easily available which are not heart-friendly.
- Remain physically active: The importance of physical activity is easily underestimated when it comes to health matters. You must ensure that you do regular exercises as they will strengthen your heart and improve blood circulation. Exercises will also help in maintaining a healthy body weight, controlling your blood pressure and in lowering cholesterol level. You should exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Manage stress: Stress can play a role in raising your blood pressure and when the stress is extreme, it can lead to a heart attack. You should find the best ways for you to manage your stress; whether it is through physical activity, counselling, meditation or engaging in your favourite hobby.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of enough sleep raises the risk of blood pressure, obesity, and even diabetes which are some of the risk factors for CVDs. Practise good sleep habits by, for example, sleeping at the same time daily. If your sleep problem does not go away, then you might need to see a doctor because some sleep problems like sleep apnea if not treated can lead to health complications.
- Low-dose aspirin therapy: If you are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, you can talk to your doctor about taking aspirin tablets which can help prevent blood clots and thromboembolic events like heart attacks and strokes.
Cardiovascular disease risk can be prevented, and the number of deaths caused by them can be reduced if the preventive measures mentioned above are adhered to.