Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the affections of the heart and the blood vessels kill over 17 million people in the world every year. In Malta, they account for almost 30% of annual deaths, a slightly better picture compared to 50% of all deaths in Europe.
Why are these diseases so dominant? One of the main reasons is that many common conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are major risk factors. Additionally, popular lifestyle behaviors like smoking, lack of physical activity, harmful alcohol consumption, and unhealthy eating further raise the risk.
These conditions and lifestyle behaviors often occur combined and reinforce each other. This increases, further the chances of developing and dying from cardiovascular diseases, especially for people with a family history of heart problems.
How cardiovascular diseases can affect your life
The most common type of cardiovascular disease is coronary artery disease. It happens when the flow of blood to the heart is restricted or blocked by plaque, a build-up of fat on the inner walls of the arteries. The increased strain on the heart can lead to chest pain, heart attacks, and other heart problems.
Plaque is mainly made of cholesterol, a waxy substance produced by our body and that we also take from the food we eat. Not all cholesterol is bad, but low levels of HDL – the “good” one – and high levels of LDL – the “bad” one –, combined with high levels of triglycerides, increase plaque accumulation.
Peripheral artery disease is another common cardiovascular condition that affects 1 out of 20 adults in Europe. It is also caused by the build-up of plaque that affects the normal supply of blood throughout the body and can be particularly harmful to the lower extremities. In the most severe cases, peripheral artery disease can even lead to the amputation of the affected leg.
On another note, strokes happen when the blood supply from the heart to the brain is disrupted, temporarily or permanently. This can cause brain damage, disability, and possibly death.
Am I at risk?
People living with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure are significantly more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels and accumulate plaque in their arteries. If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, you should take action as soon as possible to prevent cardiovascular diseases, other heart diseases, and strokes.
The first step is taking a full cardiac screening to assess your level of risk. If you’re 40 and over, you should get a heart screening at least every five years. And if you have a family history of heart problems, you should start from the age of 20.
Early detection and management are crucial to preventing death, disability, and limitations from living your life to its fullest. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and cutting down alcohol is essential to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.
Don’t wait for an unfortunate event. Start taking care of your cardiovascular health today and book a full cardiac screening with us at our specialized cardiology center (click the button below).