Cardiovascular diseases are among the most common causes of death in Germany. It is not only the elderly who are affected, the number of those under the age of 50 is also increasing continuously. It is precisely their gradual course that makes cardiovascular diseases so dangerous, as they are often discovered too late.
Heart & Vascular Disease Anatomy and Causes Infogram. Click image to enlarge.
The term cardiovascular diseases summarizes all diseases that affect the cardiovascular system. This includes all congenital diseases of the heart, blood circulation and blood vessels that were not acquired through injury.
Diseases of the veins and lymph vessels are also referred to as such. However, the concept of cardiovascular diseases is not uniformly defined in human medicine. Cardiovascular diseases are characterized by a gradual progression and sudden manifestation of symptoms.
Many of these conditions can be life-threatening and require immediate treatment by a doctor. Examples of cardiovascular diseases are heart attacks, strokes, thrombosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), pericarditis and various circulatory disorders.
There are a wide variety of risk factors that can cause cardiovascular disease. A distinction is made between influenceable and non-influenceable 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 development of dangerous diseases. Risk factors that can be influenced, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, excessive alcohol and nicotine consumption, as well as stress and lack of exercise also contribute to this.
Overweight people are particularly often affected; abdominal obesity in particular increases the risk of falling ill enormously. Diabetes can also promote the development of cardiovascular diseases. Usually it is the interaction of various factors that ultimately leads to one of the dangerous diseases.
Cardiovascular disease manifests itself through a number of symptoms. A very unspecific sign is dizziness, which can be caused by both low blood pressure and an extreme rise in blood pressure.
Palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, a general feeling of weakness and rapid fatigue when exposed to stress often occur in the context of heart diseases such as myocardial inflammation, but differential diagnosis must also include an infectious disease or psycho-vegetative regulatory disorders.
If there is also shortness of breath and water retention in the tissue (edema), the suspicion of cardiac insufficiency (heart failure) is reinforced. A heart attack is characterized by severe chest pain, which often radiates into the left arm, the jaw area or the upper abdomen and is accompanied by nausea, profuse sweating and fear of death. A heart attack can be heralded in advance by chest pain, which quickly disappears when you take a break (angina pectoris).
Circulatory disorders in the legs (peripheral arterial occlusive disease) are characterized by pain, which makes those affected repeatedly take breaks while walking. As the disease progresses, the pain-free walking distances become shorter and shorter, and leg pain also occurs at rest.
In the advanced stage, wound healing disorders can occur, which ultimately lead to tissue death. Sudden and mostly unilateral symptoms of paralysis, visual and speech disorders, confusion and dizziness indicate a stroke.
The diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases should be made as early as possible, since quite a few of the associated diseases can be fatal. Ideally, your family doctor will find changes to the heart or blood circulation during a preventive check-up before the first symptoms appear.
Drug treatment can then be initiated immediately. However, research into the cause should always be carried out and a change in lifestyle should be made if this is responsible for the disease. Many cardiovascular diseases run quietly and unnoticed for many years and manifest themselves through sudden symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, tightness in the chest or paralysis in the facial area and all over the body.
Consult a doctor immediately if these symptoms occur. After an appropriate diagnosis, the doctor will initiate 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 the advancement of intensive care medicine. The death rate from cardiovascular diseases has fallen by 25 percent since 1970.
In many cases, cardiovascular diseases lead to patient death.This happens especially if these diseases are not treated in time or if the person concerned 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 drops enormously and the person concerned looks exhausted and tired. High blood pressure, dizziness and vomiting occur. The affected person can also suffer a heart attack. This can lead to consequential damage and paralysis, which in many cases are irreversible and cannot be treated.
Not infrequently there is also shortness of breath and severe chest pain. Those affected suffer from anxiety and sweats. The treatment of cardiovascular diseases is both causal and symptomatic. This can prevent further illnesses and damage.
In many cases, however, surgery is necessary to counteract cardiovascular diseases. Complications usually only arise if treatment is not started on time. This can reduce the patient's life expectancy.
Dizziness, cardiac arrhythmias and chest pain can be due to harmless causes, but also to a serious cardiovascular disease. Such symptoms should therefore always be clarified by a doctor, especially if they persist over a long period of time or occur without a recognizable trigger. Headache-related dizziness and frequent nosebleeds may indicate high blood pressure that needs treatment.
This often persists for a long time without causing symptoms: If there are risk factors such as obesity, high blood lipid levels or diabetes mellitus, regular blood pressure monitoring is advisable even if there are no symptoms. Clouding of consciousness, impaired vision, symptoms of paralysis and slurred speech indicate a stroke that requires immediate medical treatment.
Chest pain that occurs during exertion and is associated with sweating and shortness of breath must also be treated. They can be the first signs of coronary heart disease - this is especially important to keep in mind if the symptoms improve quickly when you are quiet.
A heart attack indicates a tightness in the chest associated with nausea, fear of death, cold sweats and noticeable pale skin. In this case, an emergency doctor should be called immediately. A feeling of tension and swelling in the legs can hide a thrombosis that, if left untreated, can trigger a life-threatening embolism: A medical examination is therefore recommended even in the case of mild complaints.
If diagnosed in good time, cardiovascular diseases are treated primarily with various drugs. These include ACE inhibitors, which inhibit the production of a hormone that is responsible for the development of high blood pressure.
These ACE inhibitors have a blood pressure lowering effect and thus relieve the heart. They are characterized by a particularly good tolerance. Another drug is beta blockers, which prevent the production of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. Similar to ACE inhibitors, they lower blood pressure 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 the drug treatment is unsuccessful, cardiovascular problems can also be solved surgically. There are a wide variety of surgeries that show promise and can have a high rate of success. In addition, of course, the causes of the cardiovascular diseases must be found and eliminated.
The outlook for patients with cardiovascular disease has improved significantly over the past few decades. High blood pressure can often be successfully treated with modern drugs such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers and sartans.
The death rate from acute myocardial infarction has also fallen significantly since the 1990s. While a good 85,000 people died of heart attacks in 1990, the figure was only around 52,000 in 2013. 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 have made changes after the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, especially high blood pressure and an (impending) heart attack in your consumption 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 diagnosed too late.
In order to avoid cardiovascular diseases, one should take regular preventive examinations and consult a doctor immediately if symptoms appear. In addition, one should pay attention to a healthy lifestyle, which consists of a balanced diet, low alcohol and nicotine consumption, plenty of exercise and avoiding stress. In this way, cardiovascular diseases can be actively and sustainably avoided.
An existing disease of the cardiovascular system should also be treated after the acute symptoms have subsided. The main focus here is on setting and regular monitoring of blood pressure and heart rate. High blood pressure, in particular, stresses the heart muscle and, after a certain period of time, can lead to serious complications such as bulging of the vessels supplying the brain.
The blood vessels are passively widened by the high blood pressure. As a result, the vascular wall becomes thinner and thinner until it can finally tear and lead to cerebral haemorrhage. A pulse that is too high also continues to strain the heart. Complications can be prevented through regular visits to the doctor and the establishment of individual long-term medication with drugs that are gentle on the heart, such as ß-blockers and antihypertensive drugs.
In addition, patients with heart disease should regularly do endurance sports to strengthen the cardiovascular system. For example, many cities offer special sports groups for people with heart problems. Smoking should be completely avoided if possible, and a balanced, low-fat diet should also be ensured.
Obese patients should aim for weight loss. In order to be able to control the disease, it is advisable to see your family doctor regularly and to measure your blood pressure and pulse yourself. It should be discussed together here whether additional examinations such as regular long-term blood pressure measurements, writing an EKG or exercise tests are necessary.
A change in lifestyle can have a positive effect on 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.
Careful preparation such as steaming or steaming also saves fat. The reduced fat intake contributes on the one hand to lowering the blood fat values, on the other hand it helps to reduce excess weight.
Good examples of a heart-friendly diet can be found in Mediterranean cuisine, which is mainly based on fresh vegetables, salad and fruit, as well as chicken and fish. Vegetable oils, which have a high content of unsaturated fatty acids, are used to prepare the dishes; large amounts of salt are replaced by fresh herbs.
Anyone suffering from cardiovascular diseases should refrain from nicotine consumption and excessive alcohol consumption, avoid stress as much as possible and take regular breaks in everyday life.
Light exercise usually has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, especially walking, running, cycling or swimming can strengthen the heart and stimulate blood circulation. Before starting an activity, the individual training schedule should be discussed with the attending physician; regular checks of the cardiovascular functions at rest and under stress are recommended.