Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart Disease and Stroke

Both heart disease and stroke are forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The cardiovascular system (CVS) is responsible for pumping and moving blood around the body, which delivers nutrients and removes waste. Think of it as the plumbing system in a house, or the fuel delivery system in machinery.

The state of our CVS is determined somewhat by age and genetic factors, but it is more significantly determined by our lifestyle.

A good efficient plumbing system gets used frequently, works efficiently, and is monitored.

Your car’s fuel system is cleaned, checked for leaks, and serviced.

But the human CVS is often left to do its own thing. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Hopefully the rest of this article will change that way of thinking.

Types of cardiovascular disease

There are a number of conditions of the CVS that are related to lifestyle including;

    • Coronary heart disease
    • disease of the vessels that supply the heart leading to angina or heart attacks
    • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
    • Either caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke) or the rupturing or fragile blood vessels leading to a bleed (haemorrhagic stroke)
    • Peripheral vascular disease
    • Obstruction of the large vessels that supply arms or legs causing clots, pain, and sometimes gangrene

Cardiovascular diseases not related to lifestyle can include;

      • Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease
      • Caused by untreated Group A Streptococcus infections – much more common in rural and remote Australia and indigenous communities
      • Congenital heart disease
      • Inherited conditions that affect the valves and septum of the heart

Causes of cardiovascular disease

Healthy blood vessels are soft, flexible and elastic. They also have incredibly smooth inner walls so blood can just glide through them. However a variety of factors can cause them to become harder, inflexible and stiff. This leads to them becoming brittle and ‘leaky’.

They can also develop atherosclerosis which is the development of plaques, which make the narrow lumen or the arteries even narrower.

Going back to your plumbing, if your pipes are getting rustier, or things are clogging them up, then the water flow and drainage suffers. You might get leaks, or things just stop working.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease

      • Smoking – the nicotine in cigarettes directly narrows blood vessels
      • An unhealthy diet – not specific foods, but essentially a diet that makes you gain weight
      • Sedentary behaviour – the less you move, the less your cardiovascular system is conditioned
      • Unhealthy weight – there is no magic number here, but being heavier for your height (or a significantly increased BMI) is a risk for higher blood pressure, diabetes, and reduces the effectiveness of your CVS
      • Stress – high stress = high blood pressure

Conditions that increase your chances of heart attack and stroke

      • hypertension/high blood pressure
      • Diabetes
      • High cholesterol

How do you prevent cardiovascular disease?

Well the list above is a good start. However it’s a list of things to avoid, not a list of things to do. Staying active, eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and de-stressing all go a long way in the prevention game.

Sometimes the degree of extra prevention activities required depends on your risk factors, and family history can be a h2 predictor. If mum or dad had heart disease quite young, it can make it more likely that you might also.

When you next visit your doctor – ask about how we can estimate and reduce your cardiovascular risk.

Our scientific understanding of heart disease is increasing every day, and our treatment and prevention is improving with it.

The media will always make sensational headlines – eggs are good, eggs are bad, wine prevents heart attacks. But these are very isolated statements from very large studies. Your doctor can help put it all together for you, in your specific situation.

Our Specialties

Green Square Health provides a range of services to fulfil the needs of our community.
Please find more information on the pages below about our services and tips on how to stay healthy.