By Mai-ly Pulley
School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) account for more deaths globally than any other disease. CVDs is a term that incorporates several heart and vessel disorders such as heart attack, coronary artery disease, heart failure, atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), dysrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm), and heart valve issues.
According to the World Health Organization, over 17 million people died globally from CVDs in 2016, with over 14 million of those deaths resulting from heart attack and cerebrovascular accident (stroke). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 610,000 people die in America every year from CVDs. More than 730,000 people experience a heart attack annually, with 210,000 of those experiencing a recurrent heart attack.
Most cardiovascular disorders and complications of CVDs can be treated, but not completely reversed. The key to preventing CVDs and its complications is preventing the development of CVDs in the first place. Nurses play a huge role in identifying patients at risk for developing these issues.
Several components have been identified as risk factors that increases a person’s risk of developing CVDs. Those risk factors are categorized as modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors, such as age (65 and older), gender (males), ethnicity (African American being the highest), and genetics and family history cannot be changed. However, modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, inactivity, obesity, recreational drug usage, and excessive alcohol intake, can be changed to reduce the risk of CVDs.
There are no symptoms of CVDs; however, there are signs and symptoms of diseases caused by CVDs. For example, heart attack or stroke may be the first symptom of CVD. Symptoms of heart attack include chest discomfort, arm and jaw pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and diaphoresis (cold sweat), while symptoms of stroke include unilateral weakness, facial droop, trouble speaking, sudden confusion, and severe headache.
Preventing the development of CVDs is key in preventing complications of CVDs, so identifying risk factors is imparitive. Most disorders caused by CVDs can be prevented by modifying high-risk behaviors. Yearly physicals can allow for early detection and management of actual and/or potential health problems that could increase the risk of developing CVDs. Treatment could include medications, regular physical activity, dietary changes to include reduction of salt and cholesterol and daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, smoking cessation, avoiding recreational drugs, and limiting alcohol intake. While the risk of developing CVDs may not be completely eliminated, modifying aforementioned high-risk behaviors would severally decrease one’s risk of developing CVDs.
American Heart Association (2017). What is Cardiovascular Disease. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
World Health Organization (2017). Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs): Fact sheet. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases