Cardiovascular disease

As you may already know, a large number of dialysis patients are affected by various illnesses of the cardiovascular system. The good news: with the right care and protective measures, there are ways you can actively help slow down the progression of cardiovascular disease and improve your prognosis, or reduce your risk of developing it.

The role of the cardiovascular system

All together, our heart, veins, arteries and capillaries are known as the cardiovascular system. The system’s main job is essential to keeping us alive and well: it ensures blood moves from the heart to the lungs, and to the rest of the body to supply it with oxygen. But for people with cardiovascular disease, the body is unable to perform these important tasks as well as it should.

Cardiovascular disease – a closer look

The term cardiovascular disease is actually a misnomer: it is not just one disease, but rather a collective term for a range of diseases including hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and stroke. Some of the conditions occur more frequently than others. Cardiovascular disease can cause a person’s heart to stop pumping blood efficiently, prevent valves from working as they should, or narrow or harden the arteries. Certain toxins or bacteria can also play a role in damaging parts of the heart and blood vessels.

Hypertension

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’. This nickname stems from the fact that many people have high blood pressure without experiencing any symptoms. Two numbers make up a blood pressure reading: the systolic pressure, the first number, which represents the pressure when the heart beats, and the diastolic pressure, the second number, which represents the pressure when the heart is at relaxation phase. In people with high blood pressure, the blood travels through the blood vessels with excess force. Over time, this damages the vessels, putting a person at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor regularly checks your blood pressure to ensure it stays within a normal range, thereby reducing your risk of complications.

Atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and stroke

In layman’s terms, atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Fatty deposits known as plaque as well as mineral deposits cause the arteries to harden, which decreases the amount of blood flowing to the heart. A heart that lacks blood may cause symptoms such as chest pain or lead to a heart attack. Hardening of the arteries is also the main cause of coronary heart disease, the term for any condition in which blockage or narrowing causes reduced blood flow to the heart. When the brain does not receive enough oxygen or when a blood vessel bursts, a stroke can result, which requires immediate medical attention.