Westside Medical Associates of Los Angeles

What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular diseases are diseases of the heart (cardiac muscle) or blood vessels (vasculature). However, in practice, when doctors use the term ‘cardiovascular disease’ they usually mean diseases of the heart or blood vessels that are caused by atheroma.

Cardiovascular disease is arguably the number-one health problem in the United States. Despite remarkable progress in diagnosis and prevention, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease cause disability and death at a staggering rate.Each year, these diseases account for 950,000 deaths in the nation—twice the number of deaths from cancer, ten times from accidents, and 25 times from AIDS. In fact, cardiovascular disease is responsible for more than half of all deaths of women in the U.S.Stroke strikes 600,000 individuals every year. Only 10 percent of these patients fully recover, with 31 percent dying and 60 percent left with disability. Yearly costs for stroke reach a staggering $8 billion in the United States alone.By 2015, the number of individuals over age 55 will increase from 21 to 28 percent of the American population. As our citizens age, more men and women will be at risk for cardiovascular disease. Without new treatments or preventative measures, the burden of cardiovascular disease will profoundly increase. Clearly, progress is urgently needed to discover new treatments and cures for this devastating condition.

Risk Factors

Everybody has some risk of developing atheroma. However, certain ‘risk factors’ increase the risk. Risk factors include:

Lifestyle risk factors that can be prevented or changed:

  • Smoking.
  • Lack of physical activity (a sedentary lifestyle).
  • Obesity.
  • An unhealthy diet and eating too much salt.
  • Excess alcohol.

Treatable or partly treatable risk factors:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • High cholesterol blood level.
  • High triglyceride (fat) blood level.
  • Diabetes.
  • Kidney diseases causing diminished kidney function.

Fixed risk factors - ones that you cannot alter:

  • A strong family history. This means if you have a father or brother who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 55, or in a mother or sister before they were 65.
  • Being male.
  • An early menopause in women.
  • Age. The older you become, the more likely you are to develop atheroma.

See our page on Nutrition to see how you can become a healthier you!


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