What Is Cardiovascular Disease?

Estimates of heart disease in the United States show that eighty million Americans had a form of cardiovascular disease in 2006. Cardiovascular disease was responsible for 864,480 deaths in 2005. That’s more than a third of all deaths. What is cardiovascular disease?

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Though cardiovascular disease is a term that is often used interchangeably with “heart disease,” cardiovascular disease can affect the heart, blood vessels, or both. There are several different kinds of cardiovascular disease.

A common condition associated with cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis. The condition of atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque along the artery walls. This buildup causes a narrowing of the arteries which can impede blood flow. The blood flow can be stopped completely if a blood clot forms and blocks the artery that has been narrowed by plaque.

Depending on the artery or vessel that is blocked by a blood clot, the person may have a heart attack or stroke. If a blood vessel leading to the heart is blocked, the person suffers from a heart attack. If an artery to the brain is blocked, the person will have a stroke.

The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke. The stroke caused by a blockage of the blood flow to the brain by a blood clot is called an ischemic stroke. Another type of stroke that occurs if a blood vessel in the brain ruptures is called a hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is another type of cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries can cause chest pain known as angina. It can also lead to a heart attack. As with other types of cardiovascular disease, prompt treatment can determine if the person will survive and how much damage will be done to the heart. When the blood flow to the heart is stopped, the area of the heart without a blood supply begins to die. If the blood flow is restored within six hours of the onset of the heart attack, the person has the best prognosis for survival.

Cardiovascular disease can be a structural problem of the heart. A heart valve problem is a condition of the heart valves not opening or closing normally. Heart valve problems can interfere with the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm. Heart failure describes a heart’s inability to pump blood as well as it should.

****** Recommended: Are you preparing for or recovering from heart valve surgery? Read Patient’s Guide To Heart Valve Surgery

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