What Are Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the general term for all the conditions and disorders that affect the function of the heart and/or blood vessels

How Can We Prevent Heart Diseases?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the general term for all the conditions and disorders that affect the function of the heart and/or blood vessels and can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, including those affecting your heart’s valves, muscle, or rhythm, are also considered to be varieties of heart disease.

This means that conditions like strokes, heart attacks, aortic disease, and coronary heart diseases, all fit into the general term of “Cardiovascular Disease” (CVD).


The word cardiovascular itself is derived from the Latin words, meaning Heart and a Network of Vessels. Cardiovascular diseases are usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries and an increased risk of blood clots which can cause damage to the arteries and therefore obstruct the function of organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes.

Going through heart conditions can be stressful and overwhelming for both the patient and their family. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), “CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.”

While heart conditions are sometimes genetically passed on and patients can’t change their family history, age, or gender, the good news is that, by changing certain lifestyle choices, you can help reduce the risks of CVD and prevent them by yourself.

Types of Cardiovascular Disease

The term “Heart Disease” is sometimes used interchangeably with Cardiovascular Disease. These diseases can occur and manifest themselves in different forms of conditions.

Here we look at 6 types of conditions that can lead to heart disease:

  1. Heart disease in your blood vessels also called atherosclerotic disease
  2. Abnormal heartbeats, known as heart arrhythmias
  3. Heart defects
  4. Weak heart muscles also called dilated cardiomyopathy
  5. Heart infections
  6. Valvular heart disease


Cardiovascular disease symptoms may be different for men and women. They can range anywhere from mild to severe and usually vary depending on what type of heart disease you have.

1) Symptoms Of Heart Disease In Your Blood Vessels (Atherosclerotic Disease)

This type is associated with damage to your heart or blood vessels, caused by a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. When plaques are built-up, they thicken and stiffen the walls of arteries, which can obstruct blood flow through your arteries to your tissues and other organs.

In this type of disease, men usually experience chest pain, and women typically show other symptoms in addition to chest discomforts, such as nausea, shortness of breath, and extreme fatigue.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain/tightness/pressure and/or discomfort in your chest (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

You might not be diagnosed with the atherosclerotic disease until you have a heart attack, angina, stroke, or heart failure, but This type of cardiovascular disease can sometimes be found early with regular evaluations with your physician.

2) Heart Disease Symptoms Caused By Abnormal Heartbeats (Heart Arrhythmias)

Heart arrhythmia is defined as having an abnormal heartbeat, meaning your heartbeat can be fluctuating between too high, too low, or irregular.

 High blood pressure, diabetes, drug abuse, excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, are some of the causes that can lead to arrhythmias.

Heart arrhythmia symptoms may include:

  • Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or Dizziness
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting

3) Heart Disease Symptoms Caused By Heart Defects

Serious congenital heart defects — defects you’re born with — typically develop while the baby is still in the womb, approximately after 1 month of conception, and can usually be diagnosed soon after birth with symptoms like pale gray or blue skin, swelling in legs and abdomen, and shortness of breath during feedings in infants.

Some congenital heart defects that are not immediately life-threatening, often stay undiagnosed until patients are well into their childhood or adulthood.

Signs and symptoms of congenital heart defects that are less serious include:

  • Easily getting out of breath while doing physical activities
  • Easily tiring during exercise or activity
  • Having swollen hands, ankles or feet

4) Heart Disease Symptoms Caused By Weak Heart Muscle (Dilated Cardiomyopathy)

Cardiomyopathy is associated with the thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle. If you are at the early stages of cardiomyopathy, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as the condition worsens, you may develop symptoms such as:

  • Breathlessness with exertion or at rest
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting

5) Heart Disease Symptoms Caused By Heart Infections

A heart infection, such as endocarditis (an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart), is caused when an irritant, such as a bacterium, virus, or chemical, reaches your heart muscle.

The most common causes of heart infection are bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Heart infection symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Swelling in your legs or abdomen
  • Changes in your heart rhythm
  • Dry or persistent cough
  • Rashes or unusual spots on the skin

6) Heart disease symptoms caused by valvular heart disease

All four valves of the heart — the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid valves —when functioning normally, open and close to direct blood flow through your heart.

When these valves become damaged and can’t function properly, they can lead to narrowing (stenosis), leaking (regurgitation or insufficiency), or improper closing (prolapse) of the valves.

Valvular heart disease symptoms can vary, depending on the type of valve that is not working properly.

The symptoms generally include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the chest
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the feet or ankles
  • Fainting (syncope)

Valvular diseases can be due to many reasons. You can either be born with valvular diseases or develop it because of damage to your valves as a result of these conditions:

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Infections (infectious endocarditis)
  • Connective tissue disorders

Risk Factors

Several reasons can raise your risk of heart disease. These are known as risk factors. While some of them are out of your control, there are quite a few that you can control by choosing the right lifestyle. Learning about them can significantly lower the risks of heart disease.

Some of the factors that you cannot change include:

  • Age. The older you become, the higher the risks for your heart disease get. Men aged 45 and older and women age 55 and older have a greater risk of developing heart conditions.
  • Gender. Women and men can be different in reaction to some heart disease risk factors.
  • For example, estrogen can sometimes protect women against heart disease, however, diabetes raises the risks more in women than it does in men.
  • Race or ethnicity. Certain groups are at higher risks than others. It has been reported, that African Americans are more likely to develop heart disease than whites, while Hispanic Americans are less likely to have it. While certain Asian groups, like East Asians, have lower rates of heart disease, South Asians on the other hand, can have higher risks and rates.
  • Family history. Sometimes, you have a greater risk if you have a close family member who has had a heart condition at an early age.


The risk factors that are out of our control may put us in greater danger, and sometimes certain types of heart diseases such as heart defects can’t be prevented.

However, there are several measures we can take by changing some lifestyle choices, to somewhat prevent or reduce our risks for developing cardiovascular diseases.

These prevention methods include:

  • Not Smoking:  Smoking increases your blood pressure and can put you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Don’t start smoking, and if you do smoke, quitting will reduce your risk of heart disease.

If you need help in finding treatments to help you quit, you can always consult with your physician.

  • Controlling Your Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can be a significant risk factor for heart disease.

It is vital to get your blood pressure checked regularly – once a year for most adults, and more often for patients who have high blood pressure.

Discuss with your doctor how you can take certain steps toward changing your lifestyle methods, to help you prevent or manage high blood pressure.

  • Managing Your Cholesterol And Triglyceride Levels: High levels of cholesterol can block your arteries and increase your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Lifestyle changes and medicines (if needed and prescribed by your health care provider) can lower your cholesterol.

Triglycerides are another kind of fat in the blood. High rates of triglycerides can also increase the chances of coronary artery disease, most specifically in women.

  • Exercising Regularly: Physicians recommend, that you take time to exercise 30 minutes every day, on most days of the week.

With regular exercise, you can strengthen your heart and improve your blood circulation. Working out can also help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which all can reduce your risk of heart disease.

  • Eating A Healthy And Balanced Diet: Try to maintain a diet that is low in saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars.

Make sure you include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. A healthy eating plan can help you lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, the two things that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Maintaining A Healthy Weight: Being overweight or having obesity can increase your risk of heart disease. This is because usually, being overweight or obese can lead to high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased blood pressure, and diabetes.

Keeping your weight under control can lower your risk factors significantly.

  • Moderating your alcohol intake: Abusing alcohol use will result in high blood pressure, and add extra calories, causing weight gain. Both of these can increase the chances of heart disease.
  • Managing stress: Stress is a major risk factor in heart disease development because as other factors, it can raise your blood pressure, and in extreme cases trigger a heart attack.

Besides, some of the more common ways of coping with stress – overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking – can all be harmful to your heart.

While stress is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s always recommended to keep high levels of extreme stress under control. You can always try and manage stress and anxiety by exercising, listening to music, and meditating.

  • Controlling diabetes: Having diabetes doubles your risk of diabetic heart disease. That is because gradually, high blood sugar from diabetes can begin to cause damage to your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart.

Therefore, make sure you get tested for diabetes and try to keep it under control if you already have it.

  • Getting enough sleep: Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. If you don’t get enough sleep, your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes increases. Those three factors can all cause you to develop heart conditions.

Remember to maintain a good sleeping habit. If you have frequent sleep problems, ask your physician for help.

A condition called sleep apnea, sometimes causes people to briefly stop breathing many times while they’re asleep. This interferes with their ability to get a good rest and can up the chances of heart problems.

 If you think you might have sleep apnea, ask your doctor about having a sleep study. And if you do have sleep apnea, make sure to seek medical care for it.

Bottom Line

By learning correct lifestyle methods, and practicing them, in the majority of times you can lower and sometimes even prevent heart conditions.

Certain heart diseases such as congenital heart defects, while cannot be prevented, can become manageable through different measures and techniques.

Seeking the right treatment for your conditions early is vital. Contact your health care provider if you develop severe symptoms of heart disease.

If you have questions regarding your diagnosis or treatments, or if you’re not sure whether the treatment plan you have chosen, is the right option for you, make sure to contact us via our free medical consultation services. Our team of medical experts is ready and happy to be of help!

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