Cardiovascular diseases are among the most common causes of death in Germany. Not only older people are affected, the number of people under 50 years of age is also increasing. It is precisely their insidious progression that makes cardiovascular diseases so dangerous, as they are often discovered too late.
What are cardiovascular diseases?
According to Abbreviationfinder, the term cardiovascular diseases summarizes all diseases that affect the cardiovascular system. This includes all congenital diseases of the heart, blood circulation and vessels that were not acquired through injury.
Diseases of the veins and lymph vessels are also referred to as such. However, the term cardiovascular disease is not uniformly defined in human medicine. Cardiovascular diseases are characterized by a gradual progression and sudden onset of symptoms.
Many of these conditions can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Examples of cardiovascular diseases are heart attack, stroke, thrombosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), pericarditis and various circulatory disorders.
There are a variety of risk factors that can cause cardiovascular disease. A distinction is made between controllable and non-controllable risk factors.
Risk factors that cannot be influenced are, for example, increasing age, gender (the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher in men) and genetic predisposition. But not only these factors alone are responsible for the emergence of dangerous diseases. Risk factors that can be influenced, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, excessive alcohol and nicotine consumption, as well as stress and lack of exercise, also contribute.
Overweight people are particularly often affected, abdominal obesity in particular increases the risk of developing the disease enormously. Diabetes can also promote the development of cardiovascular diseases. It is usually the interaction of various factors that ultimately results in one of the dangerous diseases.
Typical & common diseases
- high blood pressure
- Heart attack
- heart failure
- heart valve defect
- heart muscle inflammation
- cardiac arrhythmias
- Coronary heart disease
- atrial fibrillation
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Cardiovascular disease manifests itself through a range of symptoms. A very non-specific sign are dizzy spells, which can be caused by low blood pressure as well as an extreme increase in blood pressure.
Heart palpitations, cardiac arrhythmia, general weakness and a tendency to tire quickly under stress often occur in the context of heart diseases such as myocarditis, but an infectious disease or psycho-vegetative regulation disorders must also be considered in the differential diagnosis.
If shortness of breath and water retention in the tissue (edema) are added, the suspicion of cardiac insufficiency (cardiac insufficiency) is confirmed. A heart attack is characterized by severe pain in the chest, which often radiates to the left arm, jaw area or upper abdomen and is accompanied by nausea, profuse sweating and fear of death. A heart attack can be announced in advance by chest pains that quickly disappear with rest (angina pectoris).
Circulatory disorders in the legs (peripheral arterial occlusive disease) are characterized by pain, which causes those affected to repeatedly have to take breaks when walking. As the disease progresses, the pain-free walking distances become shorter and shorter, and finally the leg pain also occurs at rest.
In the advanced stage, wound healing disorders can also occur, which ultimately lead to tissue death. Sudden and mostly unilateral paralysis, visual and speech disorders, confusion and dizziness indicate a stroke.
Diagnosis & History
Cardiovascular diseases should be diagnosed as early as possible, since quite a few of the associated diseases can be fatal. Ideally, the family doctor will detect changes in the heart or blood circulation during a check-up before the first symptoms appear.
Drug treatment can then be initiated immediately. However, in any case, the cause should be researched and a change in lifestyle should be made if this is responsible for the disease. Many cardiovascular diseases progress silently and unnoticed for many years and are expressed by sudden symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, tachycardia, chest tightness or paralysis of the face and the whole body.
If these symptoms occur, consult a doctor immediately. After an appropriate diagnosis, he will initiate the treatment, which varies depending on the stage of the disease. Overall, the prognosis for cardiovascular diseases is no longer as bad as it used to be, which is due to improved treatment methods and further developments in intensive care medicine. The death rate from cardiovascular disease has fallen by 25 percent since 1970.
In many cases, cardiovascular diseases lead to the death of the patient. This happens especially if these diseases are not treated in time or if the affected person does not change their lifestyle. Cardiovascular diseases can lead to various complaints, which, however, usually always have a negative impact on the patient’s everyday life and quality of life.
The resilience decreases enormously and the affected person appears exhausted and tired. High blood pressure and dizziness and vomiting occur. The patient can also suffer a heart attack. This can result in consequential damage and paralysis, which in many cases is irreversible and cannot be treated.
Shortness of breath and severe chest pain are not uncommon. Those affected suffer from anxiety and sweating. The treatment of cardiovascular diseases is both causal and symptomatic. This can prevent further diseases and injuries.
In many cases, however, an operation is necessary to counteract the cardiovascular diseases. Complications usually only occur if treatment is not initiated on time. This can reduce the life expectancy of the patient.
When should you go to the doctor?
Dizziness, cardiac arrhythmia and chest pain can be caused by harmless causes, but also by a serious cardiovascular disease. Such symptoms should therefore always be clarified by a doctor, especially if they last for a long time or occur without any recognizable trigger. Dizziness associated with headaches and frequent nosebleeds can indicate high blood pressure that requires treatment.
This often lasts for a long time without causing any symptoms: If there are risk factors such as being overweight, elevated blood lipid levels or diabetes mellitus, regular blood pressure checks are advisable even if you are symptom-free. Clouded consciousness, blurred vision, signs of paralysis and slurred speech indicate a stroke that requires immediate medical treatment.
Chest pain that occurs under stress and is associated with sweating and shortness of breath also needs to be treated. They can be the first signs of coronary heart disease – this is especially important to remember if the symptoms improve quickly with rest.
A feeling of tightness in the chest, which is associated with nausea, fear of death, cold sweats and striking pallor of the skin, indicates a heart attack. In this case, an ambulance should be called immediately. A feeling of tension and swelling in the legs can hide a thrombosis which, if left untreated, can trigger a life-threatening embolism: a medical examination is therefore recommended, even for minor symptoms.
Treatment & Therapy
Cardiovascular diseases are treated with a variety of medications if diagnosed in good time. These include ACE inhibitors, which inhibit the production of a hormone that is responsible for the development of high blood pressure.
These ACE inhibitors primarily lower blood pressure and thus relieve the heart. They are characterized by particularly good tolerability. Another drug are beta- blockers, which prevent the production of the stress hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine. They have a blood pressure-lowering effect similar to ACE inhibitors and relieve the cardiovascular system.
Anticoagulants, which prevent the formation of blood clots, nitrates, which relieve arteries and veins, and diuretics, which reduce the amount of fluid in the bloodstream, are also used.
If drug treatment is unsuccessful, cardiovascular problems can also be solved surgically. There are a variety of surgeries that are promising and may have a high success rate. In addition, of course, the causes of cardiovascular diseases must also be found and eliminated.
Outlook & Forecast
The prospects for patients with cardiovascular disease have improved significantly in recent decades. High blood pressure can often be successfully treated with modern drugs such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium antagonists and sartans.
The death rate from acute myocardial infarction has also fallen significantly since the 1990s. While a good 85,000 people died of a heart attack in 1990, in 2013 it was only around 52,000 people. Nevertheless, cardiovascular problems still regularly lead to death and remain the most common cause of death in Germany.
This is especially true when those affected are unwilling to change their lifestyle. For overweight people, smokers and people who consume large amounts of animal fats and stick to these habits, the prognosis is significantly worse than for people who make changes after being diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, especially high blood pressure and an (imminent) heart attack in your consumer behavior.
A healthy lifestyle, especially by avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, a predominantly plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can significantly reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Women generally have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disorders, but the risk of death is higher for them than for men, which is also due to the fact that a heart attack in women is often not diagnosed or is diagnosed too late.
In order to avoid cardiovascular diseases, you should have regular check-ups and consult a doctor immediately at the first symptoms. In addition, you should ensure a healthy lifestyle, which consists of a balanced diet, low alcohol and nicotine consumption, plenty of exercise and the avoidance of stress. In this way, cardiovascular diseases can be actively and sustainably avoided.
An existing disease of the cardiovascular system should be treated even after acute symptoms have subsided. The main focus here is on setting and regularly monitoring blood pressure and heart rate. High blood pressure in particular puts stress on the heart muscle and, after a certain period of time, can lead to serious complications such as a bulging of the vessels supplying the brain.
The blood vessels are passively widened by the high blood pressure. As a result, the vessel wall becomes thinner and thinner, until it eventually ruptures and can lead to cerebral hemorrhage. A pulse that is too high also puts more strain on the heart. Complications can be prevented by regular visits to the doctor and the establishment of an individual long-term medication with heart-friendly medication such as beta-blockers and antihypertensives.
In addition, patients with heart disease should regularly do endurance sports to strengthen the cardiovascular system. Many cities offer special sports groups for people with heart disease, for example. Smoking should be avoided completely if possible, and a balanced and low-fat diet should be followed.
Obese patients should strive for weight reduction. In order to be able to control the disease, it is advisable to see your doctor regularly and measure your blood pressure and heart rate yourself. It should be discussed together whether additional examinations such as regular long-term blood pressure measurements, writing an ECG or stress tests are necessary.
You can do that yourself
A change in lifestyle can positively influence the course of many cardiovascular diseases. In addition to regular exercise, this also includes a balanced diet: plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, potatoes and whole grain products should be given preference over high-fat animal products.
Gentle preparation such as stewing or steaming also saves fat. On the one hand, the reduced fat intake helps to lower blood lipid levels and, on the other hand, it helps to lose excess weight.
Good examples of a heart-friendly diet can be found in the Mediterranean cuisine, which is predominantly based on fresh vegetables, salad and fruit, as well as chicken and fish. Vegetable oils with a high content of unsaturated fatty acids are used to prepare the dishes, large amounts of salt are replaced with fresh herbs.
Those who suffer from cardiovascular diseases should avoid nicotine and excessive alcohol consumption, avoid stress as much as possible and ensure regular breaks in everyday life.
Light physical activity usually has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Walking, running, cycling or swimming in particular can strengthen the heart and stimulate blood circulation. Before starting an activity, the individual training workload should be discussed with the doctor treating you. Regular checks of the cardiovascular functions at rest and under stress are recommended.