What are cardiovascular diseases?Infogram on anatomy and causes of cardiovascular diseases. Click on the image to enlarge.
The term cardiovascular diseases summarizes all diseases that affect the cardiovascular system. These include all congenital diseases of the heart, bloodstream and vessels that were not acquired through injury.
Diseases of the veins and lymphatics are also referred to as such. However, the concept of cardiovascular disease in human medicine is not uniformly defined. Characteristic of cardiovascular diseases is a gradual course and a sudden manifestation of the symptoms.
Many of these conditions can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Examples of cardiovascular diseases are myocardial infarction, stroke, thrombosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), pericarditis and various circulatory disorders.
There are a variety of risk factors that can cause cardiovascular disease. One distinguishes between influenceable and non-influenceable risk factors.
Non-influenceable risk factors include, for example, increasing age, gender (the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher in men), and genetic predisposition. But not only these factors alone are responsible for the emergence of dangerous diseases. Influencing risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, excessive consumption of alcohol and nicotine as well as stress and lack of exercise also contribute to this.
Overweight people are particularly often affected, especially abdominal obesity increases the risk of getting sick enormously. Diabetes can also promote the onset of cardiovascular disease. It is usually the interaction of various factors that ultimately results in one of the most dangerous diseases.
Typical & common diseases
- high blood pressure
- Heart attack
- heart failure
- Valvular heart disease
- Coronary heart disease
- atrial fibrillation
Symptoms, complaints & signs
Cardiovascular diseases are manifested by a number of symptoms. A very nonspecific symptom is dizziness, which can be caused by low blood pressure as well as extreme blood pressure increase.
Tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmia, general feeling of weakness and rapid fatigue under stress often occur in the context of heart diseases such as myocarditis, but in differential diagnosis an infectious disease or psychovegetative regulatory disorders must be considered.
If respiratory distress and water retention in the tissue (edema) are added, the suspicion of heart failure (heart failure) is confirmed. Characteristic of a heart attack are severe chest pains, which often radiate into the left arm, jaw area or upper abdomen and are associated with nausea, profuse sweating and dread. Already in the run-up to a heart attack can announce a chest pain, which quickly disappear at rest (angina pectoris).
Circulatory disorders in the legs (peripheral arterial disease) are characterized by pain, due to which the sufferers have to take breaks again and again while walking. In the course of the disease, the pain-free walking distances are getting shorter and shorter, finally the leg pain also occurs in peace.
In the advanced stage wound healing disorders can be added, which eventually lead to the death of tissue. Sudden and usually unilateral paralysis, visual and speech disorders, confusion and dizziness point to a stroke.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis of cardiovascular disease should be made as early as possible, as many of the associated diseases can be fatal. Ideally, the family doctor identifies changes in the heart or blood circulation during a check-up even before the first symptoms appear.
Thereafter, a drug treatment can be initiated immediately. However, in any case, cause research should be conducted and change the lifestyle should it be responsible for the disease. Many cardiovascular diseases are silent and unnoticed for many years and are manifested by sudden onset of symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, tightness of the chest or paralysis of the face and the whole body.
If these symptoms occur, consult a doctor immediately. This will initiate the treatment after a corresponding diagnosis, which varies according to the stage of the disease. Overall, the prognosis for cardiovascular diseases is no longer as bad as it used to be, due to the improved treatment methods and the further development of intensive care medicine. The death rate from cardiovascular diseases has fallen by 25 percent since 1970.
In many cases, cardiovascular disease leads to the death of the patient. This happens especially if these diseases are not treated in time or if the person does not change his lifestyle. The cardiovascular diseases can lead to various complaints, which, however, usually have a negative impact on the daily routine and quality of life of the patient.
The load capacity drops enormously and the person affected seems knocked off and tired. It comes to high blood pressure and dizziness and vomiting. Furthermore, the person affected can also suffer a heart attack. This can lead to secondary damage and paralysis, which in many cases are irreversible and can not be treated.
Not infrequently there is also a shortness of breath and severe pain in the chest. Those affected suffer from anxiety and sweating. The treatment of cardiovascular diseases is both causal and symptomatic. This can prevent further diseases and damage.
In many cases, however, surgery is necessary to counteract cardiovascular disease. Complications usually only occur if treatment is not initiated on time. This can reduce the life expectancy of the patient.
When should you go to the doctor?
Dizziness, cardiac arrhythmia and chest pain may be due to harmless causes, but also to a serious cardiovascular disease. Such symptoms should therefore always be clarified by a doctor, especially if they last for a long time or occur without apparent trigger. Dizziness and frequent nosebleeds associated with headache may indicate a need for high blood pressure.
This often persists for a long time without causing any discomfort: If risk factors such as obesity, elevated blood lipid levels or diabetes mellitus are present, it is advisable to take regular blood pressure checks even in the absence of symptoms. Awareness, visual disturbances, paralysis and a slurred speech indicate a stroke that requires immediate medical attention.
Tend to be chest pain, which occur under stress and associated with sweating and breathlessness. They can be the first signs of coronary heart disease - this is especially to think about when the symptoms improve quickly in peace quickly.
Heart attack is characterized by chest tightness associated with nausea, fear of death, cold sweats, and noticeable blistering skin. In this case, an emergency doctor should be called immediately. Behind a feeling of tightness and swelling in the legs, a thrombosis can hide, which can cause a life-threatening embolism untreated: A medical examination is therefore recommended even with mild discomfort.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of cardiovascular diseases takes place with timely diagnosis, especially by various drugs. These include ACE inhibitors that inhibit the production of a hormone responsible for the development of high blood pressure.
In particular, these ACE inhibitors reduce blood pressure and relieve the heart. They are characterized by a particularly good compatibility. Another drug is beta-blockers, which prevent the production of the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. They act as the ACE inhibitors hypotensive and relieve the cardiovascular system.
In addition, anticoagulants, which prevent the formation of blood clots, nitrates, which relieve arteries and veins, and diuretics, which reduce the amount of fluid in the bloodstream are used.
If the drug treatment is not successful, cardiovascular problems can also be resolved surgically. There are a variety of operations that are promising and can have a high success rate. In addition, of course, the causes of cardiovascular disease must be found and eliminated.
Outlook & Forecast
The outlook for patients with cardiovascular disease has improved significantly in recent decades. High blood pressure can often be successfully treated with modern medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium antagonists and sartans.
Since the 1990s, the death rate in acute myocardial infarction has also dropped significantly. While in 1990 a good 85, 000 people died of heart attacks, in 2013 there were only about 52, 000 persons. Nevertheless, cardiovascular problems still lead to death on a regular basis and remain the leading cause of death in Germany.
This is especially true if those affected are unwilling to change their lifestyle. For obese people, smokers, and those who consume large amounts of animal fats and adhere to these habits, the prognosis is significantly worse than those following changes in the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, particularly hypertension and an (imminent) infarction in your consumption behavior.
A healthy lifestyle, especially by abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes, a predominantly plant-based diet and regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Women are generally at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but the risk of death is higher for them than for men, which is also due to the fact that a heart attack in women is often not diagnosed or delayed.
To avoid cardiovascular disease, you should take regular check-ups and seek immediate medical attention at first symptoms. In addition, one should pay attention to a healthy lifestyle, which consists of a balanced diet, low alcohol and nicotine consumption, a lot of exercise and the avoidance of stress. Thus, cardiovascular diseases can be actively and sustainably avoided.
An existing disease of the cardiovascular system should also be treated after the onset of acute symptoms. Above all, the focus is on the adjustment and regular monitoring of blood pressure and heart rate. Especially too high blood pressure stresses the heart muscle and can lead to serious complications after a certain period of time, such as a sagging of brain-supplying vessels.
Due to the high blood pressure, the vessels are passively dilated. As a result, the vessel wall becomes thinner and thinner until it eventually breaks and can cause cerebral hemorrhage. Even a too high pulse continues to strain the heart. Regular visits to the doctor and the preparation of an individualized long-term medication with heart-preserving medications such as beta-blockers and antihypertensives can prevent complications.
Patients with heart disease should also regularly use endurance sports to strengthen the cardiovascular system. For example, many cities offer special sports groups for heart disease. Smoking should be avoided altogether, if possible, and attention should be paid to a balanced and low-fat diet.
Obese patients should aim for weight loss. In order to be able to control the disease, the regular presentation with the family doctor and the independent measurement of the blood pressure and the pulse are recommended. Together, it should be discussed here whether additional examinations such as regular long-term blood pressure measurements, the writing of an ECG or stress tests are necessary.
You can do that yourself
A change in lifestyle can positively affect the course of many cardiovascular diseases. In addition to regular exercise, this also includes a balanced diet: Vegetable foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, potatoes and whole grains should be given preference over high-fat animal products.
By gentle preparation such as steaming or steaming also fat is saved. The reduced fat intake on the one hand contributes to the reduction of blood lipid levels, on the other hand it helps to reduce obesity.
Good examples of a heart-preserving diet can be found in the Mediterranean cuisine, which is based mainly on fresh vegetables, salad and fruit, as well as chicken and fish. Vegetable oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids are used to prepare the food; large amounts of salt are replaced by fresh herbs.
People who suffer from cardiovascular diseases should refrain from nicotine consumption and excessive consumption of alcohol, avoid stress as much as possible and provide for regular rest periods in everyday life.
Mild physical activity usually has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, especially walking, running, cycling or swimming can strengthen the heart and stimulate the blood circulation. Before starting an activity, the individual training should necessarily be discussed with the attending physician, regular checks of cardiovascular functions at rest and under stress are recommended.