What is cardiovascular disease?
Put simply the cardiovascular system is your heart and all your blood vessels; it’s a bit like the central heating system in your house – your heart is the boiler and your blood vessels are all the pipes that take hot water round the house and return cold water to be heated again. The only difference is that when we talk about the cardiovascular system the heart pumps oxygenated blood which is used by the cells around your body and deoxygenated blood is returned to your heart. It then goes back to your lungs to be oxygenated again. Cardiovascular disease is anything that stops or hinders this process. So for instance a stroke results from cardiovascular disease; either a blockage or a blood vessel rupture prevents the oxygenated blood from continuing its journey to the cells of an area in the brain and, without that oxygenated blood, that area of the brain will die. A heart attack is another example – the heart supplies its own cells with oxygenated blood (through the aorta and coronary arteries) and, if one of those arteries gets blocked, the areas of the heart they supply are deprived of oxygenated blood and die.
Thankfully the human body is amazing and we have many arteries that supply different areas of the heart; even after a heart attack people may recover to live very normal lives.
What causes cardiovascular disease?
The quick answer is ‘many things’ but the good news is, these are mostly things you can help to control:
- Too much alcohol
- Being overweight
- Diabetes (often caused by too much alcohol, being overweight and smoking)
- High blood pressure (often caused by too much alcohol, being overweight and smoking)
- High Cholesterol
How to reduce risk?
The answer is really simple; a good diet and exercise – this will help keep your weight down, reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and reduce the risk of diabetes. It’s even better if you can cut back on alcohol and quit smoking too. You would be amazed how doing these things can reduce your risk and actually make you feel pretty good too!