Key facts about cardiovascular Diseases.

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally. Approximately 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019. This number represented 32% of all global deaths in 2019. Out of these deaths, approximately 85% were caused by heart attack and stroke.

It is important to detect CVDs as early as possible so that management with counselling and medicines can be administered. Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by avoiding unhealthy lifestyles such as use of tobacco, obesity and physical inactivity.

What are cardiovascular diseases?

The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, veins, arteries and capillaries. It supplies the body with blood. Cardiovascular diseases can refer to a number of conditions or disorders of any of the elements of the cardiovascular system.

They are simply conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. They are the common cause of death worldwide. The good thing is that there are ways of reducing the risk of developing them and many treatment options. This article outlines the different types of cardiovascular diseases, their causes, symptoms and prevention mechanisms.

Types of Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)

We can classify CVDs into those that affect the heart and those that affect blood vessels. Here we shall discuss just a few that are common;

Heart failure

Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped beating. It rather means that the heart does not pump blood as it should. The heart keeps working but does not meet the demand for blood and oxygen by the body. According to the American Heart Association, the number of people diagnosed with heart failure is projected to rise to 46% by the year 2030.

Heart Attack.

Heart attack occurs when blood flow to part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. This can cause and immediate cut off for the heart muscles affected and the muscles begin to die. Many people have survived the first heart attack and returned to normal lives, but experiencing a heart attack means that you need to make some changes. The medications and lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends may vary according to how badly your heart was damaged, and to what degree of heart disease caused the heart attack.


Stroke commonly occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked by a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, some brain cells will begin to die. This can result in the loss of functions controlled by that part of the brain, such as walking or talking.

hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts. This is most often caused by uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after being starved of oxygen. These cells are never replaced. The good news is that sometimes brain cells don’t die during stroke — instead, the damage is temporary. Over time, as injured cells repair themselves, previously impaired function improves. (In other cases, undamaged brain cells nearby may take over for the areas of the brain that were injured.) Either way, strength may return, speech may get better and memory may improve. This recovery process is what stroke rehabilitation is all about.


Sometimes the heart can beat too fast, irregularly or too slow. An abnormal heart rhythm is referred to as Arrhythmia. It affects the functioning of the heart and the heart my not be able to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body. A heart rate is considered to be too slow when it is less than 60 beats per minute and too high when above 100 beats per minute.


This refers to the diseases that affect the muscles of the heart. This condition hinders the proper functioning of the heart (pumping sufficient blood) and without treatment, it can lead to heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms. This condition may run in families. It can also be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or metabolic diseases.

Coronary Artery Disease.

Coronary arteries are blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. The coronary artery disease is the blockage or narrowing of the coronary arteries. It is caused by the building up of cholesterol and deposits of fats inside the arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. The deposits can clog the arteries to an extent of damaging them, and limiting blood flow to the heart muscles. Without enough blood, the heart cannot get oxygen and nutrients needed for it to work properly. Eventually, it can cause heart attack of chest pains.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

This is a condition in which blood clots form in your deep veins, usually in the legs. They can break loose and travel through the bloodstream to your lungs and end up blocking blood flow, a condition known as pulmonary embolism. You might be at higher risk of DVT because of your genes or family history. Other things that can increase risk include sitting for a long time, like in a car or on a plane; long-term bed rest; pregnancy; and using birth control pills or hormone replacement.

Other Diseases and conditions that affect the heart include the following;

  1. Dilated cardiomyopathy- A type of heart failure, in which the heart gets larger and cannot pump blood efficiently.
  2. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – A condition in which the walls of the heart muscle thicken thus developing problems with muscle relaxation, blood flow and electrical stability.
  3. Mitral regurgitation – A condition in which blood leaks back through the mitral valve of the heart during contractions.
  4. Radiation heart disease, wherein radiation to the chest can lead to damage to the heart valves and blood vessels. This happens especially in people undergoing cancer treatment with radiotherapy.

What causes cardiovascular diseases?

The causes of a cardiovascular disease varies with the type of the cardiovascular disease. For instance, coronary artery disease is caused by the building up of fats on the walls of arteries. Valve diseases are caused by aging, infections or a systemic illness. You are likely to develop a cardiovascular disease if you have risk factors such as the following;

  • Sedentary lifestyle or obesity.
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • High blood pressure.
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Taking diets high in sodium, fat and sugar.
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease.

Symptoms of Cardiovascular diseases.

The symptoms vary depending on the cause of the particular condition. The common symptoms include the following;

  1. Heart palpitations (heart pounding or racing)
  2. Difficulty catching your breath
  3. Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting.
  4. Pain or numbness in your legs or arms.
  5. Chest tightness or pressure.
  6. Fluid buildup.
  7. Dizziness or fainting
  8. Fatigue.

How can I reduce my risk of cardiovascular disease?

You cannot prevent some types of cardiovascular diseases like congenital heart disease but lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of many types of cardiovascular diseases. The following steps are essential towards preventing and reducing risks to CVDs;

  • Avoid tobacco and alcoholic products.
  • Taking diets low in sodium and saturated fats.
  • Managing other health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol levels.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, particularly for children
  • Reducing salt and sugar intake.

Adopting damaging lifestyle habits, such as eating a high sugar diet and not getting much physical activity, may not lead to CVD while a person is still young, as the effects of the condition are cumulative. However, continued exposure to these risk factors can contribute to the development of CVD later in life.


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