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February 07, 2022

Cardiovascular Disease in Men and Women 

Internationally, heart disease is the principal cause of death for both men and women wherein people die yearly from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than any other cause. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, an estimated number of 17.9 million people have died from various heart diseases which resulted in 31% of all global deaths and of these casualties, 85% are due to stroke and heart attack. 

Across the globe, men usually develop cardiovascular disease at a younger age and have higher risks of coronary heart disease compared to women. Whereas, women are at higher risk of stroke that commonly occurs at an older age. 

Here in Australia, According to the data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), more than four in five cardiovascular disease hospitalizations which is about 83% occurred in those aged 55 years older. In addition, CVD also caused 43,500 deaths in 2017 which is 27% of all deaths. 

Discover and learn more about cardiovascular health. Know the different types of heart disease, the risk factors associated with it, the signs and symptoms a person may experience, the foods and diet needed to have a healthy heart and things you can do to prevent having heart problems. 


Types of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease or heart disease is the general term for a group of disorders that affects the heart and blood vessels. There are various types of cardiovascular diseases, some are congenital where some individuals suffer from heart defects since birth. While some heart disorders develop over the course of time and usually affects people later in their lives. These cardiovascular diseases can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and even death 

Here are some of the common heart disorders that affects the majority of the population:

  • Coronary artery and vascular disease - These involve heart disorders due to the hardening of the arteries also called arteriosclerosis. Some of these are coronary artery disease, angina, and silent ischemia. This is the most common kind of cardiovascular disease where the arteries in the heart are blocked and narrowed making your heart muscles don’t get enough blood and oxygen. 
  • Heart rhythm disorders - This causes the heart to have abnormal rhythms wherein this condition is called arrhythmia. Some individuals have a slow or fast heartbeat. When you have a rapid heartbeat of more than 100 times per minute it is called tachycardia. When your heart beats too slow with less than 60 beats per minute it is called bradycardia.
  • Structural heart disease - This refers to the irregularities of the heart’s structures which include the walls, muscles, blood vessels, and valves. This can be congenital or acquired after birth because of different factors such as infections and malformations of the heart structure. Some of the structural heart diseases are heart valve disease, atrial septal defect, mitral valve regurgitation, and cardiomyopathy.


Risk Factors of Heart Disease

If you have two or more of the following risk factors, you should do something in order to reduce your risk of having cardiovascular disease because the more risk factors you have, the greater chances that you will have serious heart conditions. 

The non-modifiable risk factors are the things you can't change, however, you can do something when it comes to modifiable factors. Here are the risk factors of cardiovascular disease. 

  • Non-modifiable factors
  1. Age - Adults who are aged 65 years old and above are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease since aging can cause changes in your heart and blood vessels. 
  2. Gender - Men are at greater risk of developing heart disorders than premenopausal women. However, after menopausal women also have the same risk to a man. 
  3. Ethnicity - Research has shown that people who have Asian and African ancestry have a higher risk of having heart disease compared to other ethnicities. 
  4. Family History - Your family history can be a strong marker for cardiovascular disease, especially if you have first -degree relatives who have experienced having heart attack or stroke.  
  • Modifiable Factors
  1. Obesity - An increase in body fat will contribute to structural changes in the heart and the possibility of the body fats surrounding the arteries which causes heart failure. 
  2. Diabetes - Research shows that adults who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to people without diabetes. 
  3. Smoking - Smoking cigarettes and using tobacco products can damage the lining of your arteries. Research has also shown that even e-cigarettes can damage lead to the stiffening of the aorta, the main artery in the heart. 
  4. Hypertension - Individuals with hypertension or high blood pressure have blood pressure readings of 140 over 90 or higher which can lead to the blocking and narrowing of the blood vessels resulting in heart failure. 
  5. Unhealthy Diet - Having an unhealthy diet can heighten your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke especially if your diet is high in trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium. 
  6. Physical Inactivity - Lack of physical activity can lead to various health issues which include obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol that could result in stroke attack, cardiovascular diseases, and early mortality. 


Signs and Symptoms

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease:

  • Chest pain - angina or chest pain can be experienced and sometimes the pain radiates to your upper body, especially in your neck and shoulders. You may experience discomfort from the pressure in the center of the chest because your heart muscles don't get enough oxygen. 
  • Epigastric pain - You can also feel epigastric pain or the discomfort in your upper middle abdominal area below your ribcage which can also be similar to the pain of heartburn. However, this can also be a symptom of other conditions related to your digestive system, diseases including peptic ulcer and Crohn's disease. 
  • Irregular heartbeat - You may experience irregular heart rhythms also called arrhythmia if you have heart disease, changes in your heart muscle or an injury from a heart attack. Individuals who have a healthy heart should have a normal resting heart rate of between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
  • Shortness of breath - Breathing problems such as shortness of breath can be one of the symptoms when you have heart disease or heart failure. Since your heart becomes weak and less efficient in pumping blood over your body, you will experience trouble breathing. 
  • Dizziness or fainting - Fainting and dizziness may occur because of the reduced blood flow to the brain due to abnormal heart rhythm, heart failure or the heart can't pump blood adequately. You may also lose consciousness if you have an enlarged, weakened heart or have damage to the heart muscle because of heart attack. 
  • Unexplained weakness and fatigue - You may feel unexplained weakness and fatigue if you have heart disorders such as coronary heart disease or heart failure which limit the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle and all over your body. 


Food for the Heart

Eating healthy foods every day can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Your diet is very crucial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that the diet high in saturated fats has caused about 31%of coronary heart disease and 11% of stroke globally. While a healthy diet that is full of nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables and fruits can lead to a 73% reduction of major cardiac events. Here are heart-healthy foods that you can include in your daily diet:

  • Omega-3 rich foods- omega-3 fatty acid or alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is an essential nutrient that we need to take since our body is not capable of producing it on its own. We need to consume it through our diet. Some of the foods that are rich in omega-3 are salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, oysters, sardines, flaxseed and chia seeds. 
  • Antioxidants - Antioxidants can help repair damaged cells caused by free radicals, it can also restore the damage in your arteries and help protect artery walls. Some of the foods and drinks that you can consume that are high in antioxidants are dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, apple cider, tomato juice, and cherry juice.  
  • Vegetables - You should always include veggies in your daily diet since they contain significant vitamins and minerals that you need in order for your organs to function properly and strengthen your heart. Some of the vegetables that can help promote cardiovascular health are leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, asparagus, bell peppers, garlic, and onions. 
  • Fruits - Eating fruits can help reduce your chances of having heart diseases, heart attack and stroke. Fruits can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Since fruits are rich in essential nutrients that our body needs you should eat fruits every day. You can include blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, raspberries, oranges, kiwi, papaya, bananas, peaches, and apples. 
  • Nuts - Nuts contain healthy fats, fiber, and protein that can promote heart health and prevent inflammation in your heart's arteries. Some of the nuts you can include in your diet are almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews, macadamia, hazelnuts, and peanuts which can help lower bad cholesterol levels. 
  • Whole Grains - Studies show that eating 25 grams of whole grains a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by about 15%. Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber and can help improve your blood cholesterol levels. It can prevent you from obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Here are some common whole-grain foods that you can include in your plate: whole wheat, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, whole oats, brown rice, and whole-grain corn. 


Prevention of Heart Disease 

You can maintain a healthy heart by reducing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease by having a healthier lifestyle and addressing behavioral risk factors like consuming an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and irresponsible drinking of alcohol. 

  • Be active and exercise regularly. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight to prevent obesity. Exercise at least 3 times for 30 minutes per week. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques in order to manage stress. Since stress and depression are also risk factors of heart disease. 
  • You should quit smoking and stop using tobacco products. Also, be responsible and disciplined when drinking alcoholic drinks.
  • Have regular check-ups with your healthcare practitioner. Consult your doctor about cardiac screening based on your risk factors and family history.
  • Eat Healthy. Avoid consuming foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, refined sugar, and processed foods. 
  • Always check your blood pressure readings, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Checking and controlling your personal health numbers will greatly reduce your chances of acquiring cardiovascular disease. 

Disclaimer: The vitamin health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends consulting your healthcare professional for any questions concerning your health. 


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Harvard Health Publishing
World Health Organization
World Heart Federation
Covenant Healthcare
Cleveland Clinic

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