What is Cardiovascular Disease? 

Cardiovascular disease is the umbrella term for a variety of heart-related issues and disorders. Many of these diseases are associated with a condition known as atherosclerosis. As defined by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) [2], atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque made of fat, cholesterol, and calcium builds up inside the arteries. 

As the arterial plaque hardens or calcifies, the artery walls begin to close in, reducing the amount of blood that is distributed throughout the body. If the plaque buildup is extensive or a blood clot forms, this can reduce the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients that your body is receiving. A resulting heart attack or stroke could be sudden and devastating. 


What Are Common Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease? 

cardiovascular disease

Our bodies often send us warning signs and signals when there is a problem. Recognizing these symptoms and being screened or receiving early treatment is crucial when it comes to heart disease. 


Some of the most common signs to look for when it comes to cardiovascular disease include: 

● Tightness and pressure around the chest area 

● Fluttering in the chest 

● Sharp chest pain 

● Feeling short of breath 

● Swelling in any or all parts of the body 

● Gastric discomfort 

● Feeling weak or lightheaded 

● Exhaustion and lethargy 

● Chronic indigestion 

● Pain in the arms or shoulders 

● Pain or discomfort in the lower jaw or neck 

● Nausea 

● Excessive sweating 

The most critical signs of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness. If you happen to experience all three symptoms at once, seek medical help immediately as you may be having a heart attack. The sooner you can get to a medical professional, the better. 

Depending on the type of heart disease you might have, you may only experience a few of these symptoms at a time. For some individuals, symptoms are very mild and can easily be mistaken for something else. When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult a medical professional as soon as possible. 


What Are Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease? 

cardiovascular disease

Many different factors can contribute to cardiovascular disease. In some cases, heart disease simply runs in the family, and genetics may play a role when it comes to who is at higher risk. For this reason, it’s vital to know your family’s history of heart disease and to share this information with your doctor. 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, other risk factors for cardiovascular disease include age, gender, and ethnicity [3]. Men over 45 and women over 55 are at greater risk of developing heart disease. The same article states that certain ethnic groups, including African Americans and South Asians, are more likely to have heart disease. 

However, lifestyle changes can help to prevent and even reverse some types of cardiovascular disease. Because so many cardiovascular diseases are associated with calcium and fat deposits blocking the arteries, it makes sense that changing your diet, losing weight, exercising more, and taking preventative measures can help to improve your heart's health. 


Tips to Help Prevent Cardiovascular Disease 

heart health

Although we all want to live happy and healthy lives, it’s all too common for people to fall into an unhealthy routine. For millions of Americans, intervention comes too late, and they are faced with heart-related health issues for the rest of their lives. Luckily, there’s so much that can be done to prevent heart disease and the dangers that come with it. 

Here are some tips to improve your heart health: 

● Be proactive with your heart health with a heart CT scan. It’s essential to know where you stand in order to take preventative measures to improve your heart health. One way of doing this is to have a heart CT scan done to measure the amount of calcium in your arteries. The heart CT scan will calculate your coronary calcium score, which lets you know your risk level for a heart attack. You can use this information to shape your overall plan to improve your cardiovascular health with diet and exercise. 

● Get regular exercise. By being more active on a regular basis, you are taking great strides towards a healthier heart. Exercise improves overall circulation, helps maintain a healthy weight, balances blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and can even help with stress and anxiety. If you haven’t exercised in a while, you can start by walking and slowly increasing the distance and speed with time. 

● Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Adding more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your diet will help to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Also, foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium should be eaten in moderation, if not eliminated altogether. 

● Maintain a healthy weight. Controlling your weight will help you avoid some of the high-risk factors that can lead to a heart attack, including high blood pressure and diabetes. You’ll also find it easier to live an active lifestyle when you are not overweight. 

● Break unhealthy habits. If you are a smoker, tobacco user, or drink excessive amounts of alcohol or sugary drinks, you’re putting yourself at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Seek help to quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake to help lower your risk. 


Take Charge of Your Heart Health 

Living a healthier lifestyle can be difficult at first. However, with the right plan, treatment, and support team, it’s much more doable than you might think. In addition, early detection of heart disease is key when it comes to treatment and avoiding major issues, including a heart attack or stroke. If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, it’s time to take charge of your heart health. 


By following these tips, you are well on your way to both preventing as well as treating heart disease. If you suspect that you might have heart disease and don’t know where to start, consider having a heart CT scan done to measure your coronary calcium score and your risk level for a heart attack. This will help you take steps towards a healthier new you. 



[1] Heart Disease Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 20 December 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm [2] Atherosclerosis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Retrieved on 20 December 2019 from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis [3] How to Prevent Heart Disease. MedlinePlus. Retrieved on 20 December 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventheartdisease.html