Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease includes many conditions that affect structures or functions of the heart, which can include coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart valve disease, arrhythmias and heart muscle disease. Many of the problems associated with cardiovascular disease are attributed to a condition called atherosclerosis which causes plaque to build up in the arterial walls. In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women.

In addition to atherosclerosis, hypertension as well the physiological and morphological changes that come with aging can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Other risk factors include tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, family history of cardiovascular disease and unhealthy diet. People who don’t get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease because physical activity assists with blood glucose control, weight loss, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity which are all beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

There are many types of conditions that fall into the category of cardiovascular disease. Heart failure, often called congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when the heart doesn’t pump as well as it should, causing salt and water retention which leads to shortness of breath and swelling. Pulmonary heart disease, myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular part of the heart) and cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) are also elements of cardiovascular disease.

Screening is done using various tests which could include electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), echocardiogram, chest X-ray or stress test.  Cardiac catheterization