Cardiovascular disease is a group of diseases that involve the blood vessels or the heart. Most common forms of this disease are coronary artery disease and stroke. Myocardial infarction, a subtype of coronary artery disease, is the biomedical term for the commonly known “heart attack”.
The mechanisms of coronary artery disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease involve atherosclerosis. This is a disease condition which involves narrowing of the inside of arteries as a result of plaque accumulation. It can be caused by a variety of factors including high blood cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, insufficient exercise, obesity, diabetes and excessive alcohol consumption. Preventing cardiovascular disease requires improvement of risk factors by healthy eating, exercising and not smoking. Healthy lifestyle choices for cardiovascular disease prevention throughout life can simultaneously also help prevent other unrelated diseases later in life including cancer.
Atherosclerosis can induce coronary artery disease where the elastic lining in the coronary artery hardens and accumulates fatty lipids and calcium deposits. This triggers inflammation in the lining, and over time plaque formation can occur. Once this plaque has accumulated sufficiently to limit blood flow to the heart, the consequences can be severe where the heart’s muscle cells undergo ischemia, or cell starvation. If these heart muscle cells die due to lack of oxygen, it will often result in a heart attack.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in most countries worldwide, and it is most prevalent in men where it is usually diagnosed up to 10 years earlier than women. Individuals with atherosclerosis and existing cardiovascular disease are at greatest risk for heart failure or stroke. Previous cardiovascular disease is a significant predictor of a future occurence. People that are at high risk for cardiovascular disease include those with high blood pressure and diabetes, and these individuals should consult their physician for early treatment options.