Cardiovascular Diseases, what are they and how to prevent them?

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of death worldwide. Every year more people die from CVD than from any other cause.

Cardiovascular diseases have a greater impact on low and middle income countries: more than 80% of all deaths occur in these countries and affect almost equally men and women.

Many times they present without pain and without obvious symptoms. For that reason, they are often not treated. This can lead to even more serious health problems, such as heart attack, stroke and damage to the kidneys. What is especially dangerous about cardiovascular diseases is that you can have more than one condition at a time without even knowing it.

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of alterations of the heart and of the blood vessels, which include:

1. Coronary artery disease: disease of the blood vessels (coronary arteries) that are responsible for giving blood flow (irrigate) the heart muscle.
2. Cerebrovascular Diseases: diseases of the blood vessels that supply the brain.
3. Peripheral Arterial Disease: diseases of the blood vessels that irrigate the upper and lower limbs.
4. Rheumatic Heart Disease: lesions of the heart muscle and heart valves due to rheumatic fever (disease caused by bacteria).
5. Congenital Heart Diseases (cardiac birth defects)

We will focus mainly on Coronary artery disease this being the most frequent of cardiovascular diseases.

Coronary Heart Disease and Cerebral Vascular Events (CVE) are often acute phenomena, which are mainly due to obstructions that prevent blood from flowing to the heart or brain, thus developing Myocardial Infarction or some type of Angina and/or Cerebral Ischemia respectively.

The risk factors for the development of Coronary Heart Disease and Cerebrovascular Events are: an unbalanced diet, physical inactivity, smoking and harmful alcohol consumption. Other determinants of CVD are socio-economic factors, stress and more important, hereditary factors.

The effects of risk factors can be manifested in people in the form of hypertension, hyperglycemia (Diabetes), elevated cholesterol and overweight or obesity.

It is proven that avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption, reducing salt in your diet, eating fruits and vegetables (balanced diet), regular physical activity while maintaining an adequate weight; significantly reduce the risk of Cardiovascular Disease.

On the other hand, it may be necessary to prescribe a pharmacological treatment for Diabetes, Hypertension or Hypercholesterolemia, in order to reduce cardiovascular risk and prevent heart attacks and strokes.

What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?

Rheumatic heart disease is caused by damage to the heart valves and myocardium derived from inflammation and scar deformation caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is caused by an abnormal response of the body to a bacterial infection.

Once the diagnosis of a Cardiovascular Disease is SUSPECTED, it must be done, depending on the symptomatology, laboratory and studies by a Cardiologist, (Echocardiogram and/or Coronary Catheterization, among others), and according to the results these will be evaluated by several specialists, including a Cardiovascular Surgeon, and thus propose the best treatment for the patient.


Open heart surgery is any surgery where the thorax (sternum) is opened and an operation is performed on the myocardium, valves, arteries, or other parts of the heart (such as the aorta).

Coronary artery bypass surgery or myocardial revascularization surgery is a very common surgical procedure. The risk of death originated from surgery, is usually very low. As with any surgery, there are associated risks.

In surgery, a segment of a healthy blood vessel (artery and/or vein) from another part of the body (auto-graft) is used to create a "bypass" or bridge in the diseased or obstructed coronary artery. The procedure creates a new route through which blood can pass, so that the heart muscle can receive the oxygen-rich blood it needs to function properly.

An extracorporeal circulation system is usually used during open heart surgery. While the surgeon works on the heart, the machine helps to supply oxygenated blood to the brain and other organs.

Another type of procedure very common in our line of work and with low risk, according to the patient's condition is the surgical repair of a heart valve. It involves the reconstruction of the valve by a cardiovascular surgeon, so that it works correctly. Valve replacement involves changing an existing valve that is diseased by a biological valve (made of animal tissue) or by a mechanical valve, depending on the indication, to ensure proper functioning.

In conclusion, all patients with cardiovascular disease risk factors should go to their doctor for detection, treatment and early control of the disease and to make appropriate adjustments to reduce risks and avoid complications.I