As mentioned previously, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. While it is important to learn what to do when cardiovascular disease leads to a heart attack or stroke, it is equally as important, if not more so, to understand how to prevent cardiovascular disease from occurring in the first place.
There are numerous factors that can increase an individual’s risk of heart attack. Some of these factors can be controlled (modifiable risk factors), while others cannot (non-modifiable risk factors.
Modifiable risk factors, or factors that can be controlled to a certain degree by an individual, include:
- cigarette smoking
- sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)
- high cholesterol
- high blood sugar (in diabetes)
- poor diet (diet high in sugar, fat)
Non-modifiable risk factors, or risk factors that individuals cannot change, include:
- genetics/hereditary factors (i.e. hereditary high cholesterol or hyperlipidemia)
- race (i.e., certain groups may be at higher risk for hypertension, or high blood pressure)
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, According to the center for disease control (CDC). The CDC estimates that more than 650,000 americans die from cardiovascular disease (1 in 4 deaths) each year in the United States.
Cardiovascular disease damages the heart and blood vessels, and frequently causes heart attack and/or stroke. Americans of all ages should focus on prevention of cardiovascular disease by eating healthy foods, exercising 30 minutes (at least) each day, controlling weight, minimizing stress, consuming healthy fats and oils, and avoiding cigarette or cigar smoking.
Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a condition caused by the building up of plaque inside the body’s arteries, the large blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the body’s organs. Plaque is composed of fatty substances, cholesterol, fibrin (a clotting substance in the blood), calcium and cellular waste products. When plaque builds up, it can partially or totally block the flow of blood through an artery in the brain (which causes stroke), the heart (which causes a heart attack), the kidneys, the arms, the legs and other vital areas. Plaque may break off to block an artery, or a blood clot (thrombus) may form on the surface of the plaque- either of these two circumstances can lead to a heart attack or stroke.