The cardiovascular system is the circulatory system of our body consisting of the heart, arteries, veins and capillaries. Its job is to circulate clean oxygenated blood throughout the body and bring the depleted blood back for filtering. Any disease or disruption to the heart and these blood vessels results in a cardiovascular disease (CVD) and we must know that the most common cause of any CVD is atherosclerosis which develops when a substance called plaque starts lining up the arteries, narrowing them, and eventually restricting the blood flow.
The types of CVD that affect people are
1) Heart attack- when the arteries are blocked by plaque, a blood clot can be formed. If this blood clot stops blood flow to the heart, the heart muscle sustained by that artery begins to die and the person suffers from a heart attack. Most people fortunately survive the first heart attack but they definitely need to make some significant lifestyles changes and take medication to prevent another one which could be fatal.
2) Ischemic Stroke- this condition occurs when the blood vessel carrying blood to the brain gets blocked, affecting the brain cells. This impairs certain activities controlled by the brain like walking, talking etc. But since most brain cells are resilient and can repair themselves after a period of time, the person can resume normal activities after rehabilitation. However, if too many brain cells are affected or dead, the damage to the brain can be permanent.
3) Heart failure- It does not mean the heart has stopped functioning as the name suggests. It means that the heart is not pumping blood with the same efficiency as it should. It beats but the body’s needs for oxygen and blood are not met. Although there is no cure for heart failures, symptomatic treatment with medication and lifestyle management is important to stop the condition from worsening.
4) Arrhythmia- this condition is when the heart has irregular and abnormal beating rhythms. The heart can either beat very fast or very slow hence affecting the blood and oxygen supply to the body. This can be rectified with a pacemaker and medications.
5) Heart valve problem- the heart valves are crucial for the healthy circulation of blood. Sometimes they don’t close properly and allow blood to leak through and at times they don’t open enough to allow the blood to pass. This condition either requires surgery or can be treated sometimes with medication.
More and more people die from cardiovascular diseases than anything else. 80%of CVD deaths occur in low to middle income countries and the occurrence is equal in males and females. But the positive aspect is that most CVDs are preventable, and in brand new study, researchers have developed an electrical immunosensor that can detect heart attacks in less than a minute with just a drop of blood.
Another breakthrough is the Minimally invasive cardiac surgery (MICS)/ Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) which is a part of ‘Interventional cardiology (check out our blog on the same). It is performed through several small incisions and catheterization instead of the traditional open heart surgery and is proving beneficial for heart patients who were initially considered high risk for the traditional heart surgery due to age and medical history risk factors. (Look out for our story blog titled ‘Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery- a new lease of life’ featuring how a patient received a gift of life through this surgery)
Risk factors that one should be careful of are:
- Too much smoking and alcohol
- Physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits
- Exposure to air pollution
- Stress and lack of sleep
- High cholesterol levels
- And obesity.
And if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, sweating, nausea and dizziness make sure you consult a doctor.