Cardiovascular Disease

What is cardiovascular disease? Explanation and how to lower your risk


Cardiovascular disease is a disorder that affects the heart and the body's circulatory system. Cardiovascular diseases include atherosclerosis, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, hypertension, myocardial infarction, and myocarditis (myocardial infarct). Symptoms vary depending on the disease.

The World Health Organization estimates that cardiovascular disease is responsible for 30% of all deaths, while Statistics Canada found it responsible for 33% of all Canadian deaths. Health Canada has found that cardiovascular disease does not limit its victims to the elderly, as it is the third leading cause of death for people under 75.

The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease include hypertension, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, diabetes and obesity. All of these risk factors may be addressed through lifestyle changes and treatment. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease that cannot be changed include age, sex, and family history.

Atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries, is the primary cause of cardiovascular disease. It is possible to slow down and prevent the buildup of this plaque through lifestyle changes. High cholesterol and fatty foods contribute to the thickening of the arteries, so it is best to monitor both carefully. For many, reducing sodium intake and fatty foods has been proven effective.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that you exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, quit smoking, and reduce sources of stress in your life to help avoid developing cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is best treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. There are numerous hypertension medications, like Micardis, that lower and control blood pressure, a common cause of cardiovascular disease. Surgery such as angioplasty or bypass surgery is also occasionally performed in serious cases. It's important to talk to your doctor if you suspect that you may have cardiovascular disease, or if you wish to learn how to avoid developing it.