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Health & Disease Prevention, National Health Observances

Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a general term that includes many different conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. According to the American Heart Association, over 39 million American men (1 in 3) suffer from one or more of these conditions, and every year just under half a million of them die of cardiovascular disease (1 in 4 men)—that’s more than cancer and diabetes combined. Approximately 392,000 men and 419,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year. CVD is also a major cause of disability and decreases the quality of life for millions of people.

Heart disease is a term that may be used to describe any disorder of a person’s cardiovascular system which affects their heart’s ability to function. Other names for heart disease include: ‘coronary heart disease (CHD)’, ‘cardiovascular disease’, or, ‘coronary artery disease’. Heart disease causes congestive heart failure, angina pectoris, heart attack, ischemia, and sudden cardiac arrest. Atherosclerosis is the most common form of heart disease, and is the result of continued narrowing of a person’s blood vessels which supply both blood and oxygen to their heart.

Heart disease is the most common cause of death for men in the U.S. A healthy diet and lifestyle are the most common contributors to good cardiovascular health.  Other conditions you may experience as you age include diabetes and high blood pressure. Modest changes to your diet can help to reduce your risk of developing these diseases.

Because CVD interferes with your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body, it can keep you from enjoying all of your days normal activities; working, time with friends and family, playing with your children or grandchildren, climbing stairs and even having sex.

Even if you don’t have cardiovascular disease now, you may have one or more habits or conditions that could increase the chance that you’ll develop it.

Look at the list of statements below. If any of them are true about you, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider today. Just one “Yes” answer means you are at risk. Two “Yes” answers quadruples your risk. Three “Yes” answers increases your risk by 10 times:

  • I’m 45 or older. (Your risk of developing cardiovascular disease doubles each decade.)
  • An immediate family member (father, mother, brother, sister) was diagnosed with high blood pressure or some other kind of heart condition before age 55.
  • I’m African American.
  • I get little or no exercise.
  • I’m overweight or obese.
  • I eat a lot of salty foods and/or I add salt to what I’m eating.
  • My cholesterol is high. .
  • I smoke. (If you do, you are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than a nonsmoker.)
  • I have high blood pressure.
  • I use recreational drugs, such as cocaine.
  • I’m under a lot of stress (at work and/or at home).
  • I drink more than two alcoholic drinks every day.
  • I drink a lot of coffee (not decaf) or other caffeinated beverages.
  • I have diabetes. (More than 80% of people with diabetes die of some kind of CVD.)
  • I’m taking prescription medications that affect blood pressure.

This includes Ritalin (drugs for Attention Deficit Disorder), steroids, migraine medications, any over-the-counter drugs that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine, and any medication that contains stimulants such as caffeine.

Many people consider cardiovascular disease as a “man’s disease,” but just as many women as men die from it each year. In fact, it’s the number one killer of women in the United States and is a leading cause of disability. Like men, a woman’s risk of getting heart disease increases as she gets older— especially after menopause. But it’s important to keep in mind that women of any age can get heart disease.

Both males and females often have the “classic” heart attack symptoms: tightness in the chest, arm pain, and shortness of breath, women are more likely to also complain of nausea, fatigue, indigestion, cold sweats, and dizziness. If your partner has any signs of a heart attack, make sure you call 9-1-1 right away—do not wait for her to do it on her own.

According to an American Heart Association survey, only about half of women indicated they would call 9-1-1 if they thought they were having a heart attack. If you wait too long to call for help, by the time you reach the hospital and have the necessary tests, it may be too late for treatment to prevent permanent heart damage. Prevention is important because two-thirds of women who have a heart attack never fully recover. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women are the same as they are for men;  age, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The best way for your partner to prevent cardiovascular diseases is by practicing  healthy lifestyle habits. When it comes to strokes , men and women have slightly different symptoms.

A woman suffering a stroke may experience:

  • Sudden face and limb pain
  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden nausea
  • Sudden general weakness
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden palpitations

Sexual intercourse is good for your heart because it relieves stress and boosts the immune system. Sexual intercourse is another form of physical activity, similar to a 20 minute brisk walk.

There could be some implications with certain cardiovascular drugs used to treat heart conditions. Diuretics and beta-blockers, have been known to cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. This should not be a concern if your healthcare providers are all working together to get you the best treatment combinations.

 Nutritional tips for High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease

  • Eat at least three ounces of whole grain cereals such as whole wheat, oats and brown rice per day. Whole grains provide abundant amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are heart healthy.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, which reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart diseases.
  • Limit your sodium intake to 2300 mg/day. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure.
  • Use less oil, margarine, mayonnaise and salad dressings.
  • When using oils choose olive, canola or nut which contain mono-unsaturated fats. Avoid saturated fats such as bacon fat, cream cheese, lard, coconut oil or chocolate.
  • Low-fat or reduced fat dairy products will help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
  • When snacking, choose pretzels, popcorn or rice cakes instead of cookies, chips and cakes.