Cardiovascular disease (CVD) can manifest anywhere in the body, primarily in the form atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries from cholesterol build-up, calcium, and high blood pressure.
Atherosclerosis of the heart vessels is called coronary artery disease and can lead to heart attacks and arrhythmias or electrical conduction problems. Strokes occur in the brain for the same reasons—blocked arteries.
Risk factors for CVD are hypertension, tobacco use, diabetes mellitus, premature family history of CVD, chronic kidney disease, obesity, and high lipids. Virtually any inflammatory process in the body is linked to CVD.
Risk Factors for Coronary Artery disease are divided into modifiable and conventional
Conventional risk factors
- Older age: Over age 45 years in men and over age 55 years in women
- Family history of early heart disease
- Race: the cardiovascular death rate for African Americans is particularly high and in South Asians.
Modifiable risk factors
- High blood cholesterol levels (specifically, high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-C])
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking: stopping cigarette smoking constitutes the single most important preventive measure for CAD
- Diabetes mellitus
- Lack of physical activity
- Metabolic syndrome
- Mental stress and depression
- Sleep disorders like sleep apnea
Medications to control high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes are necessary to help prevent the complications of CVD or CAD (heart attack and strokes). Daily exercise and dietary changes are beneficial for all forms of CVD, and even as little as 30 minutes of walking five days a week has shown benefit. Even modest weight loss can positively affect the long term prognosis.