What is Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in both men and women in Australia and indeed the world! The tragedy of this is that in most cases it is almost entirely preventable.

When it comes to cardiovascular disease the most important thing to understand is about ‘plaque’ also known medically as ‘atherosclerosis’. Plaque builds up in arteries around the body and its accumulation is accelerated by a variety of risk factors, most of which are related to lifestyle choices. As such you can reduce your risk of heart attacks and stroke by changing your lifestyle.

While are some risk factors such as age (risk increases with age) and family history (genetics) cannot be changed, there are several risk factors you can change.

The most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease that you should consider would be:

  • Smoking. Quit smoking if you do smoke, or even better, don’t start smoking or vaping.
  • Exercise. Make sure you get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day (moderate intensity means enough to make you at least a bit sweaty and out of breath, not maintain a normal conversation due to heavier breathing).
  • Check your waist measurement. Ensuring a healthy waist (waist circumference less than 94cm for Caucasian men, <90cm for Asian men and <80cm for all women) and also a health weight (BMI 18-25)
  • Preventative Disease. There are other diseases which increase your risk of cardiovascular disease such as diabetes. Make sure they are treated appropriately if you do have them.
  • Lots of Fibre. Eating a diet high in fibre and low in processed foods will improve (lower) your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Your cholesterol levels. Consider a cholesterol check with your doctor and if it is elevated, lowering it through diet and exercise and taking medication where required will be beneficial to your health.
  • See your doctor regularly for blood pressure checks, exercising regularly, engaging in stress reduction activities such as meditation, avoiding a diet high in salt and taking medication where required

What are the signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease?

Heart attack signs:

  • Pain or tightness in the chest which may or may not radiate to your arm or jaw
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating

Am I having a heart attack?

If you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke dial 000 immediately.

Early signs of a possible impending heart attack (angina)

  • Chest pains or new and unexplained shortness of breath which come on whilst exerting yourself (exercising, walking upstairs etc) and goes away usually within a few minutes of resting. Usually this will recur whenever you exert yourself.

Stroke signs

  • Sudden involuntary drooping of one side of the face
  • Sudden onset of weakness of part of the body (usually one side of the body),
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech

Am I having a stroke?

If you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke dial 000 immediately.

Treatment for heart attacks and strokes need to occur in hospitals equipped to safely do so. The tests done to confirm a heart attack or stroke also need to be done in a hospital.

How is cardiovascular disease treated?

Some options include: medication, such as to reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol, improve blood flow, or regulate heart rhythm. surgery, such as coronary artery bypass grafting or valve repair or replacement surgery. cardiac rehabilitation, including exercise prescriptions and lifestyle counseling.

Prevention of cardiovascular disease can be achieved by practising regular exercise, by keeping to a balanced healthy diet, by avoiding tobacco smoking and by the maintenance of an optimal blood pressure and normal LDL-cholesterol and glucose levels.

Ready to start the journey towards better health?