Cardiovascular disease (also known as heart disease) includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow, which can cause a heart attack or a stroke.
- A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Most people survive their first heart attack and return to their normal lives to enjoy many more years of productive activity. However, additional medications and lifestyle changes must be made in order to prevent future heart attacks from occurring (depending on how badly the heart was damaged and what degree of heart disease caused the attack).
- An ischemic stroke (the most common type) occurs when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, brain cells begin to die, resulting in the inability to carry out functions like walking or talking. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts, which is most likely caused by uncontrolled hypertension.
Signs and Symptoms: The general signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease does not necessarily indicate having it; other diseases can also cause similar signs and symptoms. If these signs or symptoms last for a long time or get worse, consult your physician.
- Heart Attack
- Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Stroke – Spot a stroke F.A.S.T.
- Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
- Arm Weakness - Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Time to call 9-1-1 – If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.
- Heart Failure
- Shortness of breath during activity (most common), at rest, or while sleeping, which may come on suddenly and wake you up.
- Persistent coughing or wheezing that produces white or pink blood-tinged mucus.
- Buildup of excess fluid in body tissues, causing swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen or weight gain.
- Feeling tired and fatigue all the time with difficulty in performing everyday activities, such as shopping, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, or walking.
- Lack of appetite and nausea.
- Confusion, impaired thinking, memory loss, and feelings of disorientation.
- Increased heart rate.
Source/Reference: American Heart Association; World Health Organization (WHO)