MANAGING CHRONIC ILLNESS: CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

Cardiovascular Disease is any disorder that affects the heart (cardio) and/or your body’s system of blood vessals (vascular). Some of the most extreme outcomes of cardiovascular disease are heart attacks, cardiac arrest and strokes.

Cardiovascular disease, in one or more forms, affects 60,800,000 Americans. It is the number one killer in the United States as well as the number one cause of disability. Cardiovascular Disease also costs approximately $298.2 billion dollars in direct and indirect medical costs every year. Now the good news: Cardiovascular Disease is treatable and reversible, even after a long history of disease or a traumatic event like a heart attack.

What is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)?

Cardiovascular disease includes the following more common disorders:

DISORDER DEFINITION
High Blood Pressure  
Coronary Heart Disease  
Myocardial Infarction  
Angina Pectoris  
Stroke  
Cholesterol: High LDL Low-density LDL Cholesterol is often called the "bad" cholesterol. Your LDL levels should be as low as possible. Having a high LDL increases your risk for CVD.
Cholesterol: Low HDL High-density HDL Cholesterol is often called the "good" cholesterol. Your HDL levels should be as high as possible. Having a low HDL increases your risk for CVD.
Congestive Heart Failure  

Information on heart disease from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/

Risk Factors

A member may be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease if they have the following risk factors, which may or may not be modified to reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Increasing Age
  • Male Gender
  • Heredity (for information on biomarkers for cardiovascular disease, CLICK HERE)
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • High Blood Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity and Overweight
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Individual Responses to Stress
  • Excess Alcohol Consumption

Heart Attacks and Strokes

Some of the most extreme outcomes of cardiovascular disease are heart attacks and strokes. These occur when a blood vessal become blocked.

Warning Signs & Symptoms for Heart Attack

It is important to know the warning signs and actions to take if someone appears to be having a heart attack or stroke. Heart attack and stroke are life-threatening emergencies. If you or someone you see has the following symptoms dial 911 immediately for assistance:

  • Chest Discomfort
  • Discomfort in Other Areas of the Upper Body
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Nausea
  • Cold Sweat
  • Lightheadedness
Warning Signs & Symptoms for Stroke
  • Assess your risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Assess your risk for stroke
  • Check your Risk Profile
Interactive educational programs from the National Library of Medicine:

Comparing Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest & Stroke

  Heart Attack Cardiac Arrest Stroke
Defined Occurs when blood to the heart gets blocked Occurs when the electrical signals within the heart go haywire. Electrical signals control the timing and the organization of the heartbeat.  
Risk Factors   Heart disease, previous heart attack, inherited heart abnormalities such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart rate or rhythm, fainting of unknown cause  
Treatments   Immediate CPR and applying a defibrillator to shock the heart.  
Severity   Very severe. More than 250,000 people die each year from cariac arrest.  
Prevention   Exercise, eat well, maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking,  
    Heart Rhythm Society  

References For Those With Cardiovascular Disease

AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION
For Patients:
HEART RHYTHM SOCIETY
AMERICAN STROKE ASSOCIATION

Additional Information