Cardiovascular disease is a group of related diseases that involve the heart and blood vessels. The human body has many different types of blood vessels running all through it – from the biggest artery (aorta) to millions of tiny capillaries. Blood flows throughout the blood vessels from the heart to the rest of the body as shown in the figure below. Blood vessels have two roles in the body:
- to transport nutrients such as oxygen, water and electrolytes to the organs and tissues of the body
- to transport metabolic waste products out of the body (for example, removing carbon dioxide from the lungs).
This exchange of useful nutrients and removal of waste products takes place in the capillaries.
In a complex system like this, many things can go wrong. One common problem is the partial or total blocking of blood vessels. When there’s a blocked vessel, the organ in the body that depends on this blocked vessel will receive less nutrients and be unable to get rid of waste. The organ will “issue a cry for help” in the form of pain. For example, pain in the chest (angina) means there has been a block in one of the heart’s blood vessels. This leads to an inadequate oxygen supply for normal heart functions.
When a blood vessel is completely blocked, the cells of the organs and tissues affected by the lack of oxygen will die (necrosis) and the function of that particular part will stop. If this occurs in the heart, the person has a heart attack. If it happens in the brain, it is a stroke.
This section primarily focuses on the heart and its blood vessels. Various cardiovascular experts have combined their knowledge to help you better understand Cardiovascular care. You will find information about the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease with the goal of increasing pro-active self-care.
Information provided here is for reference only, please consult your doctor for specific treatment.
Content by Dr. Francis Ho, Family Physician
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
The blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries) transport blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. When these vessels become narrow or blocked, this becomes coronary artery disease.
In most cases, this blockage is due to the buildup of fatty substances (cholesterol) in the walls of the blood vessels. This leads to the narrowing of the space within the blood vessel (lumen), or a total blockage in more serious situations.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is a type of coronary disease. It occurs when a narrow artery within the heart suddenly becomes totally blocked. This means that part of the heart muscle has its blood supply completely cut off (i.e. hypoxia) which causes the heart to lose its ability to contract (contractile function) and pump blood. This also leads to that portion of the heart dying and lead to irreversible damage The only way to save the heart is to medically bring back blood flow to that section.
Content by Dr. P.K. Lee, Cardiologist
Men have a higher risk earlier in life, but the women’s risk increases after menopause until it is similar to men’s.
- Family History
In the immediate family, presence of heart disease in men before 65 and women before 55 indicate an increase risk in other family members