Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) 101

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) 101

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a group of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. CVD is a leading cause of death across the globe. There are four main types of CVD- coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral artery disease, and aortic disease. It mainly affects the heart, brain, limbs, and aorta. Insulin resistance is a main driver of cardiovascular disease and other metabolic issues. The good news is CVD can be prevented through a healthy diet and lifestyle. When managing CVD, it is important to find and treat the root cause, and implement dietary and lifestyle modifications.


Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease, also known as heart disease, is the leading cause of death around the globe. 82 million Americans have at least one form of CVD. One person dies every 36 seconds from CVD in the U.S. It is estimated that 17.9 million lives worldwide are taken by cardiovascular disease each year.


Cardiovascular Disease is a chronic condition that develops over time. It is caused by decreased or absent blood flow from stenosis (narrowing) of blood vessels. Multiple factors such as inflammation, high cholesterol, toxins, and endothelial dysfunction trigger atherosclerosis, which is the precursor for CVD. Atherosclerosis is a pathogenic process that consists of fatty streak and plaque formation in the arteries, leading to blockage of blood flow. It lays the foundation for blood clot formation.

Over time. these fatty streaks turn into hard plaques inside arteries. This compromises the inner muscle layer of artery walls. Lipid particles and immune cells accumulate under there leading to foam cell formation and smooth muscle aggregation, which forms the atherosclerotic plaques. These hard plaques lay the floundering for platelet aggregation and blood cloth formation.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are split into two groups- modifiable and non modifiable risk factors. Modifiable risk factors are those that we can control. Non modifiable factors that we cannot control. Modifiable risk factors include cigarette smoking, poor diet, stress, obesity, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and blood sugar imbalance. Non modifiable risk factors include genetics (family history), sex, age, and ethnicity. Adults over the age of 50 and the male sex are at a higher risk for CVD. Most risk factors can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutrient-dense diet, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding cigarette smoking, exercising daily, and getting proper sleep.

Signs + Symptoms

There is a wide range of symptoms in cardiovascular disease. It can also be a silent condition. The symptoms depend on which arteries are impacted. Generally, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, high cholesterol, exercise intolerance or pain due to physical activity are present. Chest pain, tightness, or discomfort with exercise can be seen in the presence of coronary artery disease. Calf pain with exercise and goes away with rest, numbness, pallor, and edema of lower extremities can be seen in peripheral artery disease. CVD of the aorta can be silent until a life-threatening event, like a dissection or aneurysm occurs. Cerebrovascular disease, a group of conditions that affects blood vessels in the brain may occur from clot formation, artery stenosis, a hemorrhage, or embolus (traveling blood clot). If a cerebrovascular accident, like a stoke or aneurysm occurs, facial weakness and drooping, an unusual headache, slurred speech, confusion, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and numbness in the arms and legs on one side of the body can be present.

Dx + Testing

Various tests are used to diagnose cardiovascular disease. A primary healthcare provider or cardiologist will start with a detailed patient history and physical exam. Initial comprehensive lab testing along with a chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (echo), urinalysis, and ankle-brachial index should be performed. Holter monitoring for 24-48 hours at home may be warranted to continually assess the heart rhythm.

Cardiac catheterization can also help diagnose and treat coronary artery disease by opening blocked arteries with a stent or ballon. A cardiac cath will show if blood vessels in the heart have narrowed, the heart is pumping correctly, heart valve functioning, and pressures in the heart and lungs. A catheterization is performed under x-ray guidance. It consists of inserting a long, flexible catheter into a blood vessel like the groin or wrist, and guides it towards the heart to evaluate the coronary arteries.

CVD Management

Any new onset of chest pain or shortness of breath should be reported to your primary provider right away. CVD management includes a primary healthcare provider and a cardiologist. Management includes medication compliance, weight control, smoking and alcohol cessation, physical activity and exercise, healthy diet, family support, patient and family education, and individual patient self-responsibility and commitment.

Cardiac rehabilitation may also be warranted. Cardiac rehab helps the heart regain strength, provides extra support for lifestyle changes, monitors exercise, and provide nutrition counseling. It helps individuals who are recovering from a stroke or heart attack, and individuals who have trouble adhering to their own CVD treatment plan.

CVD Supplements

Heart healthy supplements include fish oils, turmeric (curcumin), coenzyme Q10 (CQ10), and carotenoids. They are commonly used to control inflammation and promote cardiovascular health. CQ10 is an antioxidant, cell membrane stabilizer, and vital to mitochondrial function. It facilitates energy production and regulates gene expression and apoptosis (programmed cel death). CQ10 is anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective effects. Fish oils are also anti-inflammatory and help retain healthy triglycerides levels and other cardiac markers. Fish oils help prevent cardiovascular disease and can impact high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Turmeric (curcumin) has anti-inflammatory affects and helps reduce the risk for atherosclerosis. It has been shown to inhibit cholesterol oxidation and improve endothelial function. Carotenoids are natural chemical compounds created by plants that give them their bright, vibrant color. Beta-carotene and A-carotene found in squash, spinach, carrots, and beets, are anti-inflammatory and protect against cancer.

Keys to Success

The key to success when it comes to cardiovascular disease is prevention. The four main ways to prevent CVD are exercise, diet, proper sleep, and stress management. They are all interconnected and equally important. Daily exercise that gets the heart rate up and down is crucial for optimal blood flow, endothelial function, and cardiac conditioning. A healthy diet is essential for optimal nutrient intake and clean blood vessels. Proper sleep is necessary for rest and recovery and hormone balance. Stress management practices like deep breathing, yoga, running, and meditation help induce conscious relaxation which prevents chronic low-grade inflammation.

CVD and Self-Awareness

CVD prevention and management starts with you. Self-awareness is very important. You must be alert and aware of your body and how it feels normally. Visit your primary healthcare provider yearly. Pay attention to your thoughts, the people you surround yourself with, the foods you eat, the physical activity that you do, and how well you are sleeping. Record your daily workouts, meals, feelings, activities, and sleep. Step it up in areas of your life that are lacking. Make sure to move your body and practice self-care everyday. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. It starts with you.

Final Thoughts

Cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease, a.k.a heart disease are the leading cause of death worldwide and a main cause of disability across the globe. It is of the upmost importance to be aware of this and take charge of your own health. They key to clean, healthy, optimal-functioning arteries is the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Insulin sensitivity reflects metabolic flexibility and good overall health. Exercise or movement is one of the top ways to promote insulin sensitivity. Meditation boosts focus, attention, and creativity and decreases stress and artery stenosis. Proper sleep ensures adequate energy levels for daily exercise. The goal in CVD is prevention. CVD preventative measures greatly reduce the risk for stroke, heart attack, and aortic aneurysms. Awareness of this is vital to a fulfilling, functional life. Do one thing today to better your health. Hold yourself accountable and take charge of your own health. You are the CEO of you.

Thank you for reading this post.