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Cardiovascular Diseases: Risk factors


Cardiovascular diseases are the major global health issue that influences the health and lives of people across the world as well as the economies of their countries. These diseases affect both heart and blood vessels and can sometimes affect other body systems. The World Health Organization [WHO] (2016) explains that these diseases composite the following health conditions: myocardial infarction, stroke, cardiac arrest, hypertension, and coronary heart disease among many others. Heart diseases are the most prevalent of all the cardiovascular conditions both in the United States of America (US) and the world as a whole (WHO, 2016). Therefore, the heart conditions are the major category influencing the human race because different types of heart diseases affect many people across the globe.

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Heart diseases are caused by many factors some of which are unique to a particular type of these conditions. Inflammatory heart diseases such as myocarditis and pericarditis are caused by microbial infections that invade heart tissues. Hypertension and ischemic heart disease, as well as diabetes, cause injury to the myocardium which leads to heart failure. Cardiac thromboembolism and coronary aneurysms diminish or block a blood supply of the cardiac tissues, which results in the development of myocardial infarctions. Moreover, other heart diseases, such as the tetralogy of Fallot, occur because of congenital abnormalities.

The risk factors for heart diseases are either modifiable or non-modifiable. Modifiable factors include living a sedentary lifestyle with high levels of physical inactivity, eating unhealthy diets rich in cholesterol, and smoking (World Heart Federation [WHF], 2016). Diseases like hypertension and diabetes, as well as smoking habits, can increase the likelihood of developing heart diseases. Non-modifiable risk factors include male gender, African or Asian race, older age, and family history of cardiovascular conditions (World Heart Federation, 2016). This essay will discuss various aspects of hypertension, stroke and heart attack including their prevalence and risk factors among others.

High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is a serious disease affecting almost all parts of the cardiovascular system. Hypertension is a condition that affects the heart and blood vessels that, in turn, result in stroke, heart failure, end-stage renal disease, vision problems, heart attack, and so forth. Hypertension is the world’s major factor of a global disease burden, which accounts for at least 9.4 million deaths per year and 7% of the population disability-adjusted years of life (Busingye et al., 2014). More than one billion people in the entire world suffer from this disease with a majority coming from low and middle-income countries (Busingye et al., 2014). This means that a socioeconomic status is one of the indicators of the condition’s high prevalence. Individuals with this disease experience recurrent severe headaches, tiredness or confusion of consciousness, breathing difficulties, irregular heartbeats, and bloody urine among many other symptoms. The high blood pressure is the main reason of rupture of the weak capillaries in both kidneys and eyes, which causes renal and vision problems respectively.

There are many risk factors for heart diseases. The prevalence of this disease varies across different racial-ethnic groups. Males who have a family history of hypertension and those of advanced years have a high chance of getting a high blood pressure (World Heart Federation, 2016). Furthermore, a sedentary lifestyle with low physical activity predisposes individuals to obesity, which is not only a risk for a high blood pressure but also a risk for other types of cardiovascular diseases. The use of tobacco also increases a risk of developing the disease. That notwithstanding, crapulent diets with a rich consumption of fats containing cholesterol can damage the healthy lining of the blood vessels and cause hypertension together with many other conditions like atherosclerosis. In addition, a high salt and cholesterol intake increases the risk of hypertension and other diseases of the cardiovascular system.

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Stroke is another cardiovascular disease that affects the brain. It takes place once the blood supply of parts of the brain is interrupted because of either rupture or blocking of a blood vessel that supplies the brain (World Heart Federation, 2016). As a result, an affected part of the brain lacks oxygen, which causes its permanent damage. The symptoms that manifest depend on the affected part of the brain. For instance, individuals can experience a speech problem if the speech centers undergo permanent damage. In the US, almost 800,000 people suffer from the stroke that kills at least 130,000 people, that is one American after every four minutes, which makes it a deadly disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015). Therefore, the presence of this disease should be treated as an emergency because it affects the brain, meaning that is highly fatal and can easily cause death or a long-term disability.

Stroke has risk factors common with hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. Having a family history of cardiovascular diseases, especially hypertension, can increase the likelihood of developing the disease because an increased blood pressure provokes rupture of blood vessels that supply the brain. The CDC (2015) explains that although stroke increases with age, 34% of people hospitalized in 2009 were younger than 65 years of age. This means that many other risk factors, except the age, play an essential role in the development of this disease. Among others, a race is a risk factor for stroke since some races report a high prevalence of this health problem. For example, the Blacks have considerably higher rates of stroke at younger ages than the Whites do. The risk of stroke in this race is almost twice higher than that of the Whites, and they are more likely to die once stricken by the fatal condition (CDC, 2015). Atrial fibrillation also causes the stroke due to an abnormal coagulation and fibrinolysis, structural vascular and cardiac abnormalities, and stasis in the left atrium resulting in the flow abnormalities. Other risk factors for stroke are the same as for hypertension, namely a sedentary lifestyle, eating cholesterol-rich foods, and smoking.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is equally a devastating disease affecting the cardiac tissues. It is also called myocardial infarction referring to the irreversible death of myocardium due to the prolonged absence of an oxygen supply. Coronary artery embolism is the most important non-atherosclerotic cause of this type of heart disease, but its prevalence remains unknown since it is hard to diagnose in most acute settings. Myocardial infarction occurs due to an occlusion of a coronary artery by thrombi, caused by detachment of a susceptible plaque. As a result, the parts of the heart supplied by the occluded vessel undergo ischemia, and hence, the heart attack. During the attack, individuals experience severe crushing pain in the chest because of the ischemia. Nevertheless, 20% of all the heart attacks are silent since the damage to the heart muscle occurs, but the affected individuals do not realize it (Mozaffarian et al., 2015). Those who realize the signs and symptoms of the condition should seek an immediate medical treatment since its severe forms are highly fatal.

The risk factors for this disease are more or less the same as for other cardiovascular diseases. The WHO (2016) explains that unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles with high physical inactivity, harmful use of tobacco and alcohol predispose many people to heart attacks. Furthermore, age and race may determine its occurrence. However, the major risk factor is the coronary artery disease (Mozaffarian et al., 2015). Severe coronary artery spasms can also cause a blockage of a blood flow through the narrowed vessels resulting in the occurrence of the heart attack. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels in the blood, and diabetes can also increase a likelihood of the developing myocardial infarction.

People can prevent an occurrence of all the discussed diseases, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and many other cardiovascular conditions, by managing the risk factors. Individuals should stop cigarette smoking as well as avoid excessive intake of alcohol (World Heart Federation, 2016). Those who have hypertension should seek for a treatment of this disease because it is a risk factor for many conditions like stroke and heart attack. That notwithstanding, carrying out regular physical exercises and increasing the level of physical activity can help burn the excessive calories and reduce the body weight, which is a way to prevent obesity that causes many cardiovascular conditions. According to the World Heart Federation (2016), people should also consume healthy diets with less salt and cholesterol.


Cardiovascular diseases affect either the heart and blood vessels or both, and those effects can influence other systems of the body. These diseases include conditions like a cardiac failure, hypertension, stroke, and rheumatic heart disease and affect many people in the world. Hypertension is both a disease and a risk factor for many other diseases like stroke. The stroke occurs due to rupture or blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or in the neck, which breaks a blood supply of the brain causing its damage. This disease is highly fatal, and most survivors end up having long-term disabilities. Heart attacks occur when a coronary artery occludes mainly due to a thrombus or an aneurysm that cuts off an oxygen supply of the cardiac tissues causing ischemia. Non-modifiable risk factors for all these diseases vary with age, gender, race, and history of cardiovascular conditions in the family. Modifiable risks include unhealthy diets such as high intake of cholesterol, tobacco use, and physical inactivity.

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