Participate in World Heart Day on Sept. 29th
September 16, 2014
•Health Awareness Days, General
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Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading killer. While it is in decline in wealthier nations, this disease — more generically referred to as heart disease — is increasing in poorer countries. Nevertheless, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. On Sept. 29, the World Heart Federation is sponsoring World Heart Day to raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease and to educate people about its treatment and prevention.
Types of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease encompasses any ailment of the heart muscle and blood vessels. Since the heart is such an essential organ, these diseases are the leading cause of death among the elderly. There is a variety of life-threatening cardiovascular diseases, but the following are the most common:
- Hypertensive heart disease is when the burden of high blood pressure debilitates the heart, inviting other cardiovascular diseases.
- Rheumatic heart disease usually occurs in childhood, but it can strike adults as well.
- Ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease (CAD), is the most common type of cardiovascular disease. It is also the leading cause of death globally and in the United States. A preventable disease, it occurs when plaque builds up and blocks blood vessels.
- Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also known as peripheral artery disease, is similar to CAD, but the blockages occur in the larger arteries feeding the limbs. The lower legs and feet are especially affected by PVD, sometimes resulting in amputation. Parts of these blood clots become emboli when they break loose and block the lungs, brain or heart.
- Cerebrovascular disease is the formation of clots in the vessels supplying the brain. When the blockage becomes severe enough, a cerebrovascular accident, or stroke, occurs. A brain hemorrhage occurs when weakened vessels in the brain begin leaking.
- Inflammatory heart disease is an inflammation of the heart's interior, especially the valves.
- Cardiomyopathy includes a number of diseases of the heart muscle itself, which often lead to heart failure.
Impact of Cardiovascular Disease
According to data from the World Health Organization, every year, over 17 million people die from cardiovascular disease globally, with over 600,000 of these deaths occurring in the United States.
Beyond fatalities, cardiovascular diseases cause life-changing events that put a strain on caregivers. Strokes are especially devastating, robbing individuals of the ability to use their limbs and inhibiting their speech.
Given that the population most prone to cardiovascular disease — adults over 65 — is expected to double by 2050, there will likely be widespread changes in the ever-challenged American healthcare system. Medicare is the leading health insurance for older adults, and its solvency is already a major problem.
Although some cardiovascular diseases are genetically inherited or brought on by another disease, most are preventable. The following three lifestyle alterations can have a dramatic impact on the risks and severity of cardiovascular disease:
- Stop smoking: This highly addictive habit can cause profound destruction to the cardiovascular system and other organs.
- Improve your diet: Americans consume excessive calories, fats, sugars, salt and alcohol, none of which are healthy for the heart.
- Become more active: A sedentary lifestyle, especially when combined with a poor diet and other risk factors, is a recipe for disaster.
The theme for this year's World Heart Day is "creating heart-healthy environments." Whether you are a nursing or allied health student, have a loved one at risk or simply want to learn more, join the international effort on Sept. 29. Your contribution may not seem like much, but each effort is a step toward progress in the fight against cardiovascular disease
Photo credit: Flickr