Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases
- Give up smoking
- Reduce Alcohol Consumption
- Avoid Stresses
- “Yes” To Physical Activity
- Stick To a Healthy Diet
- Watch Over Your Weight
- Control Your Blood Pressure
- Control Your Blood Count
- Know Your Family History
Fact: Every death has the same cause. The heart stops beating. However, when and why it stops beating is what is relevant. Some causes of premature heart failure are beyond a person’s control, like a bullet or liver failure. Unfortunately, a significant percentage is the result of preventable cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
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It is noteworthy that, overall, the worldwide number of deaths caused by CVD is gradually decreasing, while, in mid and low income countries, the number of deaths is constantly increasing. A decrease in CVD deaths, in developed countries, is associated with a timely prevention of cardiovascular pathologies.
Prevention success has these key results:
- Reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events significantly;
- Increase life expectancy after cardiovascular complications.
Prevention of CVD can be divided into two categories:
- Primary prevention: Proactive education in healthy populations, and in people prone to CVD.
- Secondary prevention: Stopping the progression of CVD and reduction of the risk of CVD complications, in people who suffer from cardiovascular pathologies.
Usually, early prevention of CVD does not require medications and involves only modification of a patient’s lifestyle. People that lead healthy lifestyles (quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol, and stick to a healthy diet) can reduce the risk of CVD significantly. Alternatively, people with diagnosed heart diseases require both lifestyle changes and use of medicines in order to prevent a relapse of the condition. Prevention of cardiovascular disease implies a whole set of measures that are common for most such diseases, but some conditions, of course, require an individual approach.
Let’s consider some of the general recommendations and approaches used as preventive measures for CVDs.
Smoking has the most negative influence on the cardiovascular system. CVD is much more common in smokers than in non-smokers. The daily inhalation of tobacco smoke narrows blood vessels, causing the progression of atherosclerosis and increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Thus, active as well as passive, smoking of tobacco products intensifies the symptoms of cardiovascular pathologies and increases the risk of severe CVD.
Smoking does nothing but harm; therefore, it is crucial to give up smoking in order to prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases. Smoking cessation helps to reduce cardiovascular events and the risk of CVD death significantly. Smoking cessation helps inhibit the progression of cardiovascular ailments and is as effective as drugs used in clinical cardiology.
There are a substantial number of studies concerning the influence of alcohol on the human body. It is proved that alcohol affects various organs and systems to a variable degree. However, there are accepted admissible quantities of ethanol (these indices are different for men and women), which seem to be safe for a healthy organism. People who drink alcohol regularly may develop hypertension and have a higher risk of heart attack. Therefore, even with no obvious symptoms of cardiovascular pathology, refraining from alcohol consumption reduces the chances of developing CVD.
Quite often CVDs may appear on the basis of mental stresses. The human body functions improperly when under stress, particularly the vessels, metabolism, and other systems connected to the nervous system, which may results in high blood pressure. Chronic stress and lack of sleep may promote the development of CVDs, and acute stress may be the activator of a life-threatening attack. Thus, decreasing the amount and intensity of stress is a powerful prevention mechanism for all cardiovascular disorders.
Cardiologists offer these suggestions to help keep calm at work and at home:
- Try to be kind to yourself and to other people;
- Try not to bear a grudge;
- Learn to forgive and forget offenses.
Every person needs positive emotions to smooth the negative effect of stresses. Reading positive message books, watching humorous movies, chatting with friends, and living a joyful life with a loving person generate positive emotions.
Regular physical activity helps reduce blood pressure, supports weight loss, increases the metabolism, and improves the lipid profile and muscle strength, as well as strengthening the musculoskeletal system. In addition, moderate physical loads (not less than 2.5 hours per week) help reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease and prevent strokes.
Regular physical activity is an effective and low-cost way to prevent CVD. Irrespective of income, most people can exercise 20-30 minutes a day: exercise outside, in the gym, or at home (walk, jog, dance, hike, jump rope, swim, cycle, basketball, football, etc.). Any physical activity that raises the heart rate and brings joy to a person is helpful.
In cases where cardiovascular pathology symptoms are observed in people with orthopedic, respiratory, metabolic, or neurological diseases, the duration and frequency of physical loads should be discussed with a professional medical worker.
Sound sleep and restful naps are at the top of the “must do” list. How much sleep is best, is an individual thing. 8-10 hours is the normal range. A mid-day one hour nap can appreciably enhance the quality of your life.
“You are what you eat” is more than a slogan. Few people in developed nations are unaware of the hazards of consuming excessive amounts of fats, processed and empty calorie foods. Yet, one third of these same ‘proper diet’ educated people are obese.
Obese people are ten times more likely to develop arterial hypertension, congestive heart failure, and left ventricular hypertrophy. Excess salt intake reduces blood vessel flexibility, which produces blood flow problems. Excess salt in the body inhibits kidneys from excreting fluid, creating an extra load on the heart and vessels.
Overconsumption of foods containing trans fats, cholesterol, and saturated fats, and under consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fish are major risk factors of CVDs. Unbalanced diets in most of the cases lead to high levels of “bad” blood cholesterol, atherosclerotic vascular diseases, and high risk of coronary heart disease.
To prevent cardiovascular problems, one should cook meals using lean meat (beef, poultry) and more fruits and vegetables, as well as eat low-fat dairy products, whole grain bread, fish, and seafood.
The main rules of a healthy daily diet:
- fat must not exceed 30%;
- food cholesterol must not exceed 300mg per day;
- salt should not exceed 6 g;
- coffee and strong tea consumption minimized.
People with diagnosed hypertension, dyslipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes type II, and other CVD risk factors should consult a nutritionist, who can help with optimal diet plans.
Control your weight, and try to shed excess weight. Overweight people are 2-3 times more likely to have various cardiovascular disorders, and if disorders occur, they are more likely to have complications. Thus, obesity promotes the process of atherosclerosis, and is often associated with the development of diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery diseases, and gallstones.
In order to lose excess weight two main rules should be followed:
- Stick to a low calorie diet, but avoid drastic diets: they are rarely long-lasting.
- Increase your physical activity.
The realistic goal for weight loss is about 2 pounds every 2 weeks.
Controlling blood pressure is vital because increased blood pressure significantly increases the risk of having a stroke or myocardial infarction. Optimal blood pressure should be 120/80 mmHg. It is recommended that people check their blood pressure on a regular basis. Some people may require more frequent checks if their numbers are higher or if they have other CVD risk factors.
Any of the following groups of medicine can be administered to lower blood pressure:
Beta-adrenergic blocking agents, also known as beta blockers, are a class of drugs used for prevention of cardiovascular diseases due to their antihypertensive, cardio protective and anti-angina properties.
However, some beta blockers are not intended for CVD prevention in people exhibiting cardiovascular pathology associated with certain health issues:
- Diabetes type 2;
- Metabolic syndrome;
- Peripheral artery disease;
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
ACE inhibitors work by dilating blood vessels. These medicines are used to improve the control over blood pressure and to stop the progression of cardiovascular diseases. Also, ACE inhibitors can minimize the risk of another infarction and death from cardiovascular events.
Calcium channel blockers relax vascular smooth muscles, reduce myocardial contractility, and have a diuretic action resulting in the lowering of blood pressure.
Increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels can promote the development of heart attack or stroke. They provoke the formation of atherosclerotic plaques leading to atherosclerosis and impair blood supply to vital organs and, thus, increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Therefore, they require thorough control with the help of a healthy diet and specific medications (lipid lowering drugs), if necessary:
Statins are the most prescribed lipid-lowering drugs. They help reduce high cholesterol levels quickly and, therefore, reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, angina, and revascularization procedures, as well as the risk of hospitalization with congestive heart failure. These medications can be used in both secondary and primary prevention of CVDs.
Fibrates can slow the progression of myocardial infarction and coronary atherosclerosis. Moreover, fibrates reduce the risk of microvascular complications in diabetic patients and cardiovascular mortality in adults.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors are prescribed in combination with fibrates or statins in order to increase the efficiency of the lipid-lowering therapy.
If you have diabetes, it is essential to follow all the recommendations provided by your doctor, to control the level of sugar in blood, and not to disregard any changes in your condition. High blood sugar levels increase the risk of a stroke or myocardial infarction; thus, controlling these levels (including, if prescribed, the use of anti-diabetic agents) helps minimize such risks.
Depending on the risk factors, anticlotting agents (anticoagulants) can be prescribed to avoid the formation of blood clots as they are able to thin the blood. Anticoagulants are usually prescribed to people who have insufficient blood inflow to the brain or heart.
Studies show that a family history of cardiovascular diseases is a significant predictor of the disorder. Family histories give a clear picture of the genetics and environment in places when the disorders occurred. Nothing can be done about genetics, but environments and behaviors can be changed that increase the risk of having CVDs. Thus, knowing a family history can help avoid any cardiovascular problems.
There is compelling evidence that CVD risk factors start to develop from an early age and progress throughout life. Therefore, the primary prevention of CVDs must be initiated as soon as possible; the secondary CVD prevention, with the first symptoms of a cardiovascular pathology.