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Cardiovascular Health

Last Updated: December 11, 2023

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Cardiovascular Health Insights: An in-depth examination of maintaining a robust heart and circulatory system. This article provides a comprehensive overview of factors and practices essential for preserving cardiovascular well-being.

Introducing Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular health, or CV health, is one of the five components of health, alongside muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. CV Health describes the cardiovascular system's function, including the heart and blood vessels.

Poor CV health can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and more conditions that can reduce quality of life.

Influences on Cardiovascular Health

Many factors influence the health of one’s cardiovascular system. Some factors, like genetic predispositions and heart size, cannot be changed. Thankfully, most components influencing CV health are easily modified and can be improved. The largest contributing factors include:

  • Diet
  • Activity level
  • Body fat
  • Smoking
  • Drinking heavily

Poor cardiovascular health is normally characterized by certain diagnosable conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and more.

Understanding the Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system is vital for the body to function, and doctors and scientists have done many studies on the functions of and influences on this system.

There are still mysteries surrounding the CV system, but health professionals have an ever-growing understanding of how the heart, blood, and blood vessels work together to support life.

Heart

The heart is the central component of the cardiovascular system. The heart is composed of the myocardium - the heart muscle - that beats nonstop from birth to death. As such, this specialized muscle needs to be incredibly fatigue-resistant and efficient.

Like any muscle, the heart takes blood and energy to beat. A healthier, stronger heart can pump more blood per beat, meaning it beats fewer times per minute, improving the heart's longevity and reducing heart disease risk.

Blood Vessels

A blood vessel is any tube-like tissue structure that transports or carries blood. The body has five kinds:

  • arteries
  • arterioles
  • veins
  • venules
  • and capillaries

These all serve different functions, but their general purpose is the same: transporting blood. Healthy blood vessel tissue should be pliable and elastic, adjusting its size to allow enough blood into the muscles when needed and constricting to limit blood flow when the nervous system dictates.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by blood outwards against the blood vessels. Blood pressure must be maintained within a healthy range to ensure it has enough pressure to circulate through the body and return to the heart, but not so much that it increases the heart's workload.

Cardiovascular Health and Lifestyle

Lifestyle is the biggest contributing factor to CV health. Active living, healthy eating habits, and avoiding vices can improve the heart's efficiency, reduce blood pressure, and lower the workload of the cardiovascular system for activities of daily living.

Physical Activity

Physical activity and exercise and exercise are some of the biggest contributing factors in managing or promoting heart health, even above maintaining a healthy weight and body composition.

Active people have stronger hearts that can pump more blood per beat, and their blood vessels show more elasticity, reducing blood pressure.

Diet

Eating a healthy diet can promote CV health, as can staying hydrated. Food components to look out for include:

  • Saturated fats: An unhealthy diet, especially one filled with saturated fats, can cause an increase in blood cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol: High cholesterol increases the workload on the heart, making it harder to pump the blood the body needs.
  • Sodium: High-sodium foods can also cause issues with blood pressure and heart health.

Supplementation

Supplements can help manage cardiovascular risk factors, treat high blood pressure, reduce chances of heart attack or heart failure, and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Supplements should always be discussed with a doctor before beginning a supplementation routine.

Still, some well-proven and low-risk options can improve high cholesterol, manage blood glucose, and mitigate plaque buildup. However, supplements should never be a primary prevention strategy, and lifestyle changes should always be the first step.

CV Health and Aging

Cardiovascular health becomes more important for the aging and elderly. Despite these populations’ higher risk status, the same prevention strategies for cardiovascular disease and heart attacks apply to the elderly - stay active, eat well, and avoid vices.

Stress and the Heart

Stress is a massive contributing factor in cardiovascular health. Chronic stress, or stress maintained for long periods, increases heart rate and blood pressure, making the heart work much harder for extended periods. Like any muscle, the heart needs time to recover.

Long stretches of hard work can lead to extreme fatigue, interrupting the heart’s regular beat and heart arrhythmias, or eventually leading to a heart attack.

Lifestyle changes like working less and spending more time meditating may not be easy to implement, but they’re worth it for long-term heart health.

Common Cardiovascular Conditions

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a broad term that describes conditions impacting cardiovascular health. Many risk factors may lead to cardiovascular diseases, the most common being smoking, unhealthy diets, a lack of physical activity, and genetics.

Cardiovascular disease is among the most common causes of death in the First World.

Because cardiovascular disease is a chronic condition that tends to worsen over time, it is important to detect it early, and tests are generally included in a yearly physical examination for people considered high-risk.

Heart Disease

Like cardiovascular disease, heart disease is another blanket term to describe conditions that directly impact the heart.

Heart disease is chronic but often manifests in acute emergencies like heart failure, heart attack, or another medical emergency requiring immediate care.

Prevention strategies and early detection are paramount for reducing the chances of harm from heart disease.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is known worldwide as the silent killer because it can harm the cardiovascular system and lead to death.

There are many causes of high blood pressure, from diet to stress levels, but it is likely the easiest of the cardiovascular conditions to manage.

Lifestyle changes, diet adjustments, quitting smoking, and getting more active - just a few minutes of brisk walking daily - can greatly impact blood pressure to healthy levels within weeks.

Arterial and Vein Conditions

While the heart is the central unit of the cardiovascular system, veins and arteries play a very important role in distributing the blood that the heart pumps.

These blood vessels need to maintain elasticity and stretch to handle varied amounts of blood flow through them as the needs of the body change over time. Some conditions can prevent this.

A blockage of blood vessels, called atherosclerosis, means the heart has to work extra hard to push the same blood volume through a smaller vessel.

Hardening of the blood vessels, arteriosclerosis, leads to the same result - more work for the heart muscle, higher blood pressure, and reduced heart efficiency.

Symptoms of Cardiovascular Conditions

Many cardiovascular conditions develop slowly over time with no blatant symptoms. Blood clots or heart attacks often have a sudden onset of symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain.

Still, other conditions, like peripheral artery disease, high cholesterol, and coronary heart disease, often develop with no blatant symptoms.

People at high risk for cardiovascular disease or heart disease should have their heart, blood vessel, and circulatory system health evaluated regularly, regardless of symptoms.

Risk Factors Impacting Cardiovascular Health

Heart disease and cardiovascular disease are influenced by dozens of factors, including both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors.

Modifiable

Modifiable risk factors for heart disease and cardiovascular diseases include:

These are often the greatest contributors to overall heart health. Some small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on overall cardiovascular health.

Unmodifiable

Unmodifiable risk factors include genetics, congenital heart disease or congenital heart defects, age, sex, diabetes, and family history of health conditions.

It should be noted that regardless of unmodifiable factors, cardiovascular health can be improved by working on the things that can be controlled. Everyone can improve their cardiovascular health.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cardiovascular Health

How can I improve my cardiovascular health?

Losing excess weight, staying active, and eating a healthy and balanced diet are the best ways to keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy.

What does the cardiovascular system do?

The cardiovascular system is responsible for circulating blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body, making it vital to the activities of daily living. CV health is one of the most important aspects of full-body physical wellness.

What are the risk factors for poor cardiovascular health?

Many risk factors come into play, but the most notable ones are lifestyle and behavior-related. Smoking, physical inactivity, heavy alcohol use, and a poor diet are the most common contributors to poor CV health.

Other risk factors include genetics, family history, and congenital conditions. About half of Americans have one or more of the key risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

References

Cardiovascular disease - Wikipedia

Circulatory system - Wikipedia

Heart Disease and Stroke | CDC.

Know Your Risk for Heart Disease | cdc.gov

Heart Risk & Prevention

Disclaimer

The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.

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