medical heart sign

The What’s What of Cardiovascular Disease

Each year in the U.S., about one in four deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease, meaning that it is not a public health concern that can be ignored. Health care administrators see the unfortunate results of heart problems every day. Here’s what you need to know about the issue.

What is cardiovascular disease?

While cardiovascular issues are often simplified to the description “heart disease,” they actually have a lot to do with the blood vessels as well.

One of the most common heart disease problems is atherosclerosis, where plaque builds up in the arteries and makes it difficult for blood to flow normally. If the situation gets bad enough, a blood clot may form which blocks the flow entirely. Blood clots can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Heart attacks happen when a part of the heart is cut off from regular blood flow, thereby reducing the amount of oxygen that the section receives (oxygen travels through the bloodstream). This lack of oxygen causes damage or death to the heart tissue.

A stroke is similar to a heart attack, except that the blockage affects the brain. Strokes are very dangerous as well, and can lead to permanent damage to the brain tissue.

While heart attacks and strokes are the most commonly talked about types of cardiovascular disease, there are also several others. An aneurysm, for instance, happens when the wall of a blood vessel either bulges or is weakened. If left unchecked, it can rupture.

The main causes

As you’ve seen, the term “cardiovascular disease” actually encompasses a few different problems. However, there are some common causes related to daily living habits. Not getting enough exercise, smoking, eating unhealthily, and being overweight all negatively impact cardiovascular health.

Medications & acute interventions

Doctors who detect cardiovascular issues may prescribe or administer certain medications to help alleviate some of the problem. For example, ACE inhibitors can widen arteries to lower blood pressure and in turn the burden on the heart to pump hard in order to circulate blood. Beta blockers work to mitigate the negative impacts of adrenaline on the heart and help it beat in a healthier way. Medications can be an important part of cardiovascular health, depending on the patient’s risk factors and medical history.

Non-medical remedies for healthier living

Since you’ve seen that lifestyle also plays a big part in cardiovascular problems, it makes sense that it can also be a big part of the solution and of prevention. The number one thing that patients can do to maintain a healthy heart is to change their diets. A heart-healthy diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, among other nutritious foods. It’s important to avoid saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, red meats, sweets, and salt.

The other big factor is exercise. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day is a helps greatly in combating cardiovascular disease.

Knowing more about what cardiovascular disease is, as well as how to prevent it could be important for your career as a health administrator. Hopefully, with the right kinds of leadership and management, it will become much less pervasive of a health problem in future generations.