Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system. Your heart pumps blood to all of your cells through your body’s blood vessels. Your blood carries oxygen that your cells require to function properly.
Almost everyone knows that cardiovascular disease is an extremely serious matter. However, most Americans think that cardiovascular disease is something that other people have. It may surprise you to know that an estimated 70 million Americans have some kind of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States of both men and women. Almost 700,000 people die from cardiovascular disease in the United States every year. This represents about 29% of all deaths in the United States.
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for a large number of diseases that affect your heart. Cardiovascular disease refers to a group of diseases that occur when your heart and blood vessels are not working like they should.
As already mentioned, there are several forms or kinds of cardiovascular disease. Some of these are:
- Cardiomyopathy – This is when your heart muscle itself becomes inflamed and does not work like it should.
- Congestive Heart Failure – This is when your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
- Angina – This is chest pain that occurs when your heart is not getting enough blood.
- Coronary Artery Disease – This is when your heart arteries become blocked with plaque.
- Pericarditis – This is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane that surrounds your heart.
- Cardiac Arrhythmias – This is when your heart is beating too fast, too slow or irregularly.
- Arteriosclerosis / Atherosclerosis – This is hardening of your arteries.
Cardiovascular disease is not contagious. You do not catch it like the flu or the measles.
There are certain things that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease that doctors refer to as risk factors. Some of these risk factors are things that you cannot do anything about like heredity and aging. Other risk factors are things that you can do something about like smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity and not exercising.
Often, the first sign or symptom of cardiovascular disease is chest pain. Some other possible signs and symptoms are:
- Becoming suddenly cold
- Difficulty breathing or being out of breath