Centurion Healthcare

Cardiovascular Disease

What is CVD?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a term used to describe a number of conditions that can affect the heart and blood vessels. These include:

How prevalent is CVD and what are the risks of developing it?

The most common cause of CVD is the gradual clogging of blood vessels by fatty or fibrous material. Fatty material gradually builds up on the blood vessel walls, narrowing the arteries. This eventually prevents vital oxygen from reaching the cells. As the deposits build up the arteries become less elastic. This condition is often referred to as hardening of the arteries – ‘atherosclerosis’. Any artery in the body can be affected. However, the arteries to the heart, brain or kidneys, or those to the eyes and legs are most commonly affected.

CVD is the number one killer in Australia. Every 10 minutes someone dies as a result of cardiovascular disease.

Some things that increase the risk of CVD are impossible or difficult to control. These include:

What are the symptoms of CVD and when medical attention be sought?

Heart attack warning signs can vary. The symptoms of a heart attack usually last for at least 10 minutes. One or more of the following symptoms may be experienced:

Pain in the chest

A heart attack usually causes discomfort or pain in the centre of the chest. The pain may come on suddenly or start slowly, developing over minutes. It may feel like tightness, fullness, pressure, squeezing or heaviness. It has been described as: 'like a steel band tightening around my chest', 'like an elephant sitting on my chest' or 'like a red hot poker in the centre of my chest'. The pain may be severe, moderate or even mild.

Pain spreading

The chest discomfort may spread to the neck and throat, jaw, shoulders, back, either or both arms, and even into the wrists and hands.

Discomfort in the upper body

Some people do not get any chest pain but just feel discomfort in parts of their upper body. They may have a choking feeling in their throat. Their arms may feel 'heavy' or 'useless'.

Other symptoms

As well as pain or discomfort, there may be:

What can be done to reduce the risk of developing CVD?

While the above listed risk factors are frequently impossible to control, there are some things that can be done to reduce the probability of developing CVD. Namely:

 

What are the consequences of leaving CVD untreated? (tangible and intangible)

If heart disease is not treated, it can cause severe angina, heart failure or shortness of breath on even mild activities. The risk of death is increased. Most physicians are now very familiar with treating heart disease so it rarely goes untreated.

 

What are the different treatments for CVD?

Treatment will depend on the type of CVD determined. Any GP can develop a treatment plan with their patient.

Treatment for heart disease includes meal planning to ensure a heart-healthy diet and physical activity. In addition, regular medications may be required to treat heart damage or to lower blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. A daily low dose of aspirin may also be suggested. In some cases, surgery or other medical procedures may be recommended.


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