Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of heart and blood vessel diseases that include:

  • heart failure - the inability of the heart to perform its pump function ;
  • coronary heart disease - the disease of the blood vessels that feed the heart muscle;
  • myocarditis and pericarditis - inflammations of the heart;
  • rhythm and conduction diseases - heart rate dysregulation;
  • cerebrovascular disease - the disease of the blood vessels that feeds the brain;
  • peripheral arterial disease - the disease of blood vessels feeding the arms and legs;
  • rheumatic heart disease - heart muscle and valves damage through infection with streptococcal bacteria;
  • infectious endocarditis - infection of the heart with various pathogens;
  • congenital heart disease - malformations of the existing heart structure at birth;
  • deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism - blood clots in the leg veins that can dislocate and move to the heart and lungs.

The main causes of cardiovascular diseases are represented by combinations of risk factors such as tobacco consumption, unhealthy diet, obesity, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia.

Risk factors that can't be influenced

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Heredity

Risk factors that can be influenced

  • Arterial Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Other risk factors: fibrinogen, reactive C protein, homocysteine, lipoprotein (a), apolipoprotein B, stress, depression

These "risk factors" can be measured in primary care units through various risk scales that may indicate an increased risk of suffering a myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure and other complications.

Smoking cessation, salt intake reduction, eating fruits and vegetables, regular physical activity and moderate alcohol consumption have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. In addition, the medical treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood lipids may be necessary to reduce cardiovascular risk and prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Symptoms and signs of cardiovascular disease

  • Chest pain or chest discomfort is the most alarming symptom and is often described as a feeling of pressure, tightness, compression, suffocation, numbness or discomfort in the chest, neck, upper abdomen, and often associated with pain in the jaw, head or arms
  • Palpitations consist of experiencing heart beats, either heart rate "breaks", or fast and / or irregular heart beat periods
  • Dizziness can be a sing of a vascular disorder
  • Syncope is the sudden and temporary loss of knowledge
  • Fatigue, lethargy or daytime sleepiness
  • Dyspnea or difficulty in breathing
  • Intermittent claudication consists of pain or cramps in the lower limbs during walking or exercise, which improves or disappears at rest, and feeling cold or numbness in the legs, especially at night
  • Edema - swelling of the feet through the accumulation of fluids

People who suffer from these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from cardiovascular diseases than from any other cause

  • Each year cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes 3.9 million deaths in Europe and over 1.8 million deaths in the European Union (EU).
  • CVD accounts for 45% of all deaths in Europe and 37% of all deaths in the EU.
  • CVD is the main cause of death in men in all but 12 countries of Europe and is the main cause of death in women in all but two countries.
  • Death rates from both ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke are generally higher in Central and Eastern Europe than in Northern, Southern and Western Europe.
  • Dietary factors make the largest contribution to the risk of CVD mortality and CVD DALYs at the population level across Europe of all behavioural risk factors. High systolic blood pressure makes the largest contribution of all the medical risk factors.
  • Over the past three decades, fruit consumption has increased overall across Europe and overall in the EU, while vegetable consumption has increased slightly in Europe as a whole, but has remained relatively stable in the EU.
  • Fat consumption and energy consumption in Europe have increased over the last two decades, driven mainly by trends in Eastern Europe. In the EU, consumption of fat and energy has remained relatively stable over the past two decades.
  • Smoking remains a key public health issue in Europe. Smoking rates have decreased across much of Europe, although the pace of decline has slowed and rates remain stable or are rising in some countries, particularly among women.
  • Few adults in European countries participate in recommended levels of physical activity, with inactivity more common among women than men.
  • Over the past 30 years, average levels of alcohol consumption have decreased very gradually in Europe and in the EU.
  • Levels of obesity are high across Europe and in the EU in both adults and children, although rates vary substantially between countries.
  • The prevalence of diabetes in Europe is high and has increased rapidly over the last ten years, increasing by more than 50% in many countries.
  • Overall CVD is estimated to cost the EU economy €210 billion a year. Of the total cost of CVD in the EU, around 53% (€111 billion) is due to health care costs, 26% (€54 billion) to productivity losses and 21% (€45 billion) to the informal care of people with CVD.

*European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2017*European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2017