I discuss Cardiovascular disease (CVD) again. I find that knowing your risks helps to prevent serious problems. It also gives you a chance to influence your risk! Lots of challenges again for us…
CVD is a general term to describe diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. A build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries and an increased risk of blood clots are associated with these diseases.
Types of CVD
The four main types are:
- Coronary heart disease: this happens when the flow of blood to the heart muscle is blocked or reduced. Examples are heart attack and angina.
- Strokes and TIAs: a stroke is where the blood supply to a part of the brain can be cut off (or temporarily in case of a TIA).
- Peripheral arterial disease: in a peripheral arterial disease there’s a blockage in the arteries to the limbs – usually the legs.
- Aortic disease: an aortic aneurysm is an example. The aorta can be weak and bulges outwards. It can burst and cause life-threatening bleeding.
Risk of CVD
It is not easy to identify a clear cause. There are risk factors. I mention the most important ones:
- High blood pressure: high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels.
- Smoking: Smoking can damage and narrow your blood vessels.
- High cholesterol: cholesterol can narrow your blood vessels and can cause a blood clot.
- Diabetes: in diabetes, your blood sugar levels are too high. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and make them narrow.
- Inactivity: if you don’t exercise regularly, it’s more likely that you’ll have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and be overweight.
- Being overweight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for CVD.
- Family history of CVD: if you have family members with a history of CVD, your risk is also higher. Tell this to your GP! It might be worth checking your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Other risk factors
- Age – when you are over 50 you are at higher risk
- Gender – men are more at risk
- Ethnic background (South Asian)
Preventing Cardiovascular disease
A healthy lifestyle can lower your risk!
- Stop smoking: if you smoke, you should try to give up as soon as possible.
- Have a balanced diet: a healthy, balanced diet is recommended for a healthy heart. This diet should be low on saturated fats, salt and sugar. It should contain lots of fibres, fruit and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly: do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, such as cycling or walking. Start at a level you feel comfortable with and gradually increase this.
- Watch your weight: if you’re overweight or obese, a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you lose weight. Aim to get your BMI below 25.
- Cut down on alcohol: try not to exceed the recommended limit of 14 alcohol units a week for men and women. If you do drink this much, you should aim to spread your drinking over three days or more.
- Medication: if you have a particularly high risk of developing CVD, your GP may recommend taking medication to reduce your risk. Medications that may be recommended include statins to lower blood cholesterol levels, low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots and tablets to reduce blood pressure. Talk to your trusted Medical Practitioner to find out more about your risk and how to prevent Cardiovascular disease.
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