Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. Cardiovascular disease includes coronary artery diseases (CAD) such as angina and myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack). Additional CVDs include stroke, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, carditis, aortic aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and venous thrombosis.
There are several risk factors for heart diseases: age, gender, tobacco use, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, obesity, family history of cardiovascular disease, raised blood pressure (hypertension), raised blood sugar (diabetes mellitus), raised blood cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), psychosocial factors, poverty and low educational status, and air pollution. While the individual contribution of each risk factor varies between different communities or ethnic groups the overall contribution of these risk factors is very consistent. Some of these risk factors, such as age, gender or family history, genetic, are immutable; however, many important cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable by lifestyle change, social change, drug treatment and prevention of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease in a person’s parents increases their risk by 3 fold.
Age is by far the most important risk factor in developing cardiovascular or heart diseases, with approximately a tripling of risk with each decade of life. It is estimated that 82 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 and older. At the same time, the risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.
Men are at greater risk of heart disease than pre-menopausal women. Once past menopause, it has been argued that a woman’s risk is similar to a man. Coronary heart diseases are 2 to 5 times more common among middle-aged men than women.
Approximately 10% of cardiovascular disease is attributed to smoking; however, people who quit smoking by age 30 have almost as low a risk of death as never smokers.
Insufficient physical activity is currently the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide. In 2008, 31.3% of adults aged 15 or older (28.2% men and 34.4% women) were insufficiently physically active. The risk of ischemic heart disease and diabetes mellitus is reduced by almost a third in adults who participate in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week (or equivalent).
High dietary intakes of saturated fat, trans-fats and salt, and low intake of fruits, vegetables and fish are linked to cardiovascular risk, although whether all these associations are a cause is disputed. The amount of salt consumed is also an important determinant of blood pressure levels and overall cardiovascular risk. Frequent consumption of high-energy foods, such as processed foods that are high in fats and sugars, promotes obesity and may increase cardiovascular risk. There is evidence that higher consumption of sugar is associated with higher blood pressure and unfavorable blood lipids, and sugar intake also increases the risk of diabetes. High consumption of processed meats is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly in part due to increased dietary salt intake.
The relationship between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease is complex, and may depend on the amount of alcohol consumed. There is a direct relationship between high levels of alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease. Drinking at low levels without episodes of heavy drinking may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease affects low- and middle-income countries even more than high-income countries. However, within high-income countries, low income and low educational status are consistently associated with greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Up to 90% of cardiovascular disease may be preventable if established risk factors are avoided. Measures to prevent cardiovascular disease include:
- A low-fat, high-fiber diet including whole grains and fruit and vegetables. Five portions a day reduce risk by about 25%.
- Tobacco cessation and avoidance of second-hand smoke.
- Limit alcohol consumption to the recommended daily limits; excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Lower blood pressures, if elevated.
- Decrease non-HDL cholesterol.
- Decrease body fat if overweight or obese.
- Increase daily activity to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day at least five times per week.
- Reduce sugar consumptions.
- Decrease psychosocial stress.
High Cholesterol and Heart Attacks
Whether or not men should be concerned about high cholesterol levels,their doctors usually make sure that they are.
Despite the fact that the median cholesterol level among men who have heart attacks is 158 mg/dl (4.1 mmol/L), which means that half of men who have heart attacks actually have low cholesterol, doctors continue to hand out statins like they were vitamins.
HDL and APO
There’s one cholesterol measurement that you do need to get down. This is a ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol that can get stuck in the linings of veins and arteries causing a clog. It’s the smaller APO-A particles of cholesterol, something for which doctors almost never test for.
If your doctor doesn’t seem to know about, or concerned with APO, then maybe you need to see someone else. And if he or she does, then ask how the drugs that are recommended to you change this number. It’s the one that really matters.
So if cholesterol levels don’t have a lot of bearing on whether a man has a heart attack, what does? Most experts agree that the key issue is inflammation. You can get a laboratory reading on inflammation with a test of C-reactive protein, also known as C-RP.
Statin drugs lower C-RP as well as cholesterol, which may be their redeeming feature. You can also lower C-RP by eating less processed fat and more of the fat found in flaxseed oil or chia see oil, the only plant oils that have more of the ‘good’ omega-3 fats than they have of the ‘bad’ omega-6 fats.
Related Links to Cardiac Disease
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