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Healthy Living

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular System

Understanding the disease that takes the most lives each year

Know who your enemies are

Cardiovascular disease causes more deaths in men and women each year than all types of cancer combined. The most common of the cardiovascualr diseases include: coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and hypertension.

Coronary heart disease (heart disease, coronary artery disease

What is it?
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a chronic disease characterized by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). It is the most common and deadliest of the cardiovascular diseases. In 1999, 529,659 men and women died of CHD, making it the number one cause of death.

What causes it?
Throughout a person's life, cholesterol and fatty substances in the blood collece on artery walls. This buildup forms a material called palque. As the buildup increases, the arteries narrow and harden -- a condition referred to as atherosclerosis. If treatment is not given, the arteries will eventually become too narrow to allow blood flow to the heart. The result is a heart attack.

Stroke

What is it?
Stroke is the result of damage to the brain occurring from cardiovascular disease. It is the leading cause of long-term disability in men and women. About 600,000 Americans have strokes each year.

What causes it?
Stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or some other particle. Because of this rupture or blockage, part of the brain doesn't get the flow of blood it needs. Deprived of oxygen, nerve cells in the affected area of the brain can't function and die within minutes. When nerve cells can't function, the part of the body they control can't function either. The devastating effects of stroke are often permanent because dead brain cells are not replaced.

Heart failure (congestive heart failure)

What is it?
The term heart failure means the heart isn't pumping blood as well as it should.

What causes it?
Clogged arteries, high blood pressure of heart defects cause the heart to become weak. As the heart weakens, it loses its ability to deliver oxygen and blood to the body. When an inadequate supply of oxygen or blood is delivered, people feel weak, fatigued or short of breath.

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

What is it?
Hypertension occurs when the pressure int he arteries is consistently above normal range. Over the past ten years, the actual number of deaths due to hypertension has increased by 40 percent.

What causes it?
According to the American Heart Association, the cuase of about 90 to 95 precent of hypertension cases is unknown. What's more, hypertension has no symptoms, so it can go unnoticed by patients until serious damage has already been done. To prevent the damaging effects of hypertension, have your blood pressure checked regularly.

How you can take action

Changes to your lifestyle can help reduce your chances for developing cardiovascular disease. For more information on how to lower your risk, make an appointment with your primary care physician.


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