Understanding Cardiovascular Disease and Ways to Prevent it

Many people are afraid of fatal car crashes, of deadly plane landings, or of roller coasters flying off their rails. However, as intimidating as the fear of mortality is, such causes of deaths do not compare to a certain category of disease. Many may know while others may be surprised, but the leading cause of death in the United States isn't caused by a random, unfortunate accident. Rather, it stems from a rising health epidemic that is taking over our country: cardiovascular disease.

As cardiovascular disease (also commonly known as heart disease) is the leading cause of death in America, it is important to understand what it is and what can be done to prevent it. Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that describes all the diseases that can affect your heart or your cardiovascular system such as disease of the blood vessels, blood clots, arrhythmias, and heart defects. The anatomy of the heart is composed of four chambers, valves (or muscular flaps) that control the blood flow in between these chambers, and an electrical system that keeps the heart working as a pump that collects blood that is deprived of oxygen from the body, taking the blood to the lungs, and then supplying oxygenated blood to your entire body. The blood in your body travels to and from the heart in muscular vessels shaped like tubes called veins and arteries. When your cardiovascular system is healthy, your blood is easily able to flow through these “tubes”, be delivered to the heart, and follow this electrical impulse and continue to complete the cycle of blood delivery. 

However, just as if the pipes in your home were clogged, your arteries can begin to develop build up of fatty plaque which causes complications in the delivery of fresh blood to the rest of your body. This form of cardiovascular disease is called atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attacks (caused by blood clots in the heart), strokes (caused by lack of proper blood flow to the brain due to clogged arteries), and heart failure (caused by the heart’s inability to pump sufficient blood to the body). Just like an orchestra would fall apart without the rhythmic direction of the conductor, the activity of our depends greatly on the steady release of an electrical impulse. A complication of the electrical activity of our heart is another form of cardiovascular disease called an arrhythmia, or having an abnormal heartbeat. 

Other forms of cardiovascular disease include valvular heart disease which is caused by the dysfunction of the heart’s valves (which would be similar to the hinge of a door being broken in your home, there would be a failure to control what and how much goes in and out), heart infections caused by bacteria and viruses, and cardiomyopathy (caused by the enlargement and thickening of the blood vessels).  

While this disease may be a rising epidemic that is taking the lives of many, it is important to understand that the development of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by living a healthy and active lifestyle. Introducing a nutritious diet with a healthy serving of protein, fruits, and vegetables and reducing the intake of high sodium and fat could greatly reduce the risk factors of developing heart disease. Other ways to prevent cardiovascular disease would be to quit smoking and usage of other drugs, reducing stress and practicing positive mental health exercises such as meditation and deep breathing, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. 

In order to end the outbreak of this deadly disease, we need to understand why it happens and all the steps we can take to prevent it. With the current, modern lifestyle, it is easy to forget to get in your daily exercises and it is easy to pick up unhealthy foods right from the corner of your street. In the end, to ensure a healthier and stronger future for not only ourselves, but our nation, we need to be able to eat and exercise better. 



Megha Nayyar