Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 17.9 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases, which are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels.
The sheer volume of deaths caused by heart disease each year suggest there’s little people can do to avoid it. However, the Canadian organization Heart & Stroke notes that healthy behaviors like eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly can help individuals delay the onset of heart disease by as much as 14 years.
Education is another valuable asset in the fight against heart disease. Individuals who are aware of common heart illnesses can discuss them with their physicians and take measures to reduce their risk.
1. Angina: Heart & Stroke notes that angina is another word for chest pain. The discomfort associated with angina, which can feel like squeezing, suffocating or burning, is caused by a temporary disruption in the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Though angina symptoms typically do not last long, they are considered warning signs for heart attack and should be discussed with a physician immediately after they appear.
2. Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is characterized by the buildup of plaque on the interior wall of an artery. That buildup makes the walls of the artery thick and hard, thus restricting the flow of blood and can potentially contribute to a blockage. The experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine note that risk factors for atherosclerosis include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and a poor diet that includes lots of saturated fats. Atherosclerosis can cause angina, though many individuals with the condition experience no symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. Blockages in the leg may cause cramping when exercising or walking, while those in the arteries of the heart can cause heart attack. Blockages that develop in the brain can cause stroke.
3. Cardiomyopathy: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention notes that cardiomyopathy often goes undiagnosed, making it hard to determine just how common the condition is. But the CDC estimates that as many as one in 500 adults have cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body at optimal capacity. Heart & Stroke notes that cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure. Early stages of cardiomyopathy may not produce any symptoms, but as the disease gets worse individuals may experience fainting, irregular or rapid heartbeats, light-headedness and swelling of the hands and feet, among other things.
4. Coronary artery disease: Heart & Stroke notes that coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease. CAD occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries narrows or becomes blocked. CAD causes damage or disease to major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Certain risk factors for CAD, such as age, are beyond individuals’ control. However, many risk factors are within a person’s control. Individuals can speak to their physicians about how to maintain a healthy blood pressure and a healthy weight, limit stress and reduce their cholesterol, all of which can lower risk for CAD.