Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are ailments that affect the circulatory system or the heart. There are three kinds of CVD including stroke (cerebrovascular disease), heart failure, and coronary heart disease (Silverstein et al, 2006). Coronary heart failure is a disease characterized by a decrease in the flow of blood as a result of hardening and thickening of arteries charged with supplying blood to the heart muscle (Roger et al, 2011). A heart attack occurs when there is a total cut-off of blood supply that makes the heart cells die. On the other hand, heat failure happens due to the inability of the heart to pump blood effectively, whereas stroke happens when a blood vessel that is in or leads to the brain is blocked by a blood clot or bursts. According to the statistics, almost 600,000 people die of heart ailments yearly in the United States of America alone. This implies that in every 4 deaths, 1 is due to heart disease; hence it remains the leading killer in America. The most common heart ailment is coronary heart disease, and it is estimated that it leads to 385,000 deaths yearly. The cost of managing cardiovascular diseases is too high, and the government spends $108.9 billion annually on coronary heart disease alone (Roger et al, 2011). This paper will critically evaluate the history and progression of cardiovascular disease in the United States. For proper analysis, the paper will discuss causes, signs and symptoms, and current emergency treatments of the disease.
History and Progression of Cardiovascular Disease in the United States
Even though the public health worked so hard in the 20th century to bring under control infectious diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis (TB), a new epidemic in the name of heart disease emerged becoming the number one killer. The coronary heart disease is the particular ailment responsible for the large number of deaths, and it is characterized by the blockage of coronary arteries. Before 1990, the number of deaths that resulted from heart diseases in the US was remarkably little, and it rose tremendously thereafter. Consequently, by 1948, coronary heart disease claimed one in every three deaths (Silverstein et al, 2006).
As a result of this spreading epidemic, the US Public Health Service launched an epidemiological study regarding heart ailment in 1947. The study headed by Joseph Mountin was conducted among a considerably large group of physically fit people over a long period to establish the common characteristics or issues among those who developed the disease (CDC, 2002). This was contrary to the previous studies that emphasized already had heart disease.
Currently, the Framingham Heart Study is in its 7th decade and remains the longest-running research on heart disease globally. Additionally, it has spread to cover the offspring and a third generation of the original members for appropriate evaluation. Similarly, the number of risk factors has been increased to encompass physical inactivity, diabetes, and obesity (Roger et al, 2011).
The selected study area was Framingham, Massachusetts, and it attracted about 5,200 healthy people as volunteers to take part in the study. It soon became referred to as the Framingham Heart Study. The researchers collected a meticulous medical history and carried out laboratory and physical tests on every volunteer bi-annually. The study was ongoing, and by the early 1960s, three significant risk factors directly linked to heart disease were identified. They entail high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, and high cholesterol. During this time, the idea of risk factors was novel, but it has not only revolutionized the comprehension of heart disease but many ailments (CDC, 2002).
In the recent past, researchers have discovered genetic risk factors and established that they interplay with environmental risk factors. Some studies indicate that some “genetic mutations in the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor can prevent the receptor from performing its normal role of removing LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") from the blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol can then build up in the arteries and lead to cardiovascular diseases” (Lobo, 2013). Currently, the researchers are optimistic that through studying the behavioral and genetic risk factors for cardiovascular disease, they are able to better comprehend and treat or find ways of preventing it.
Despite intensive and tremendous progress in research, the disease remains the number one killer not only in the USA but worldwide. Additionally, there is no “cure” for heart disease hence the public should exercise good health practice at least to prevent it (Roger et al, 2011).
A small number of people died of heart disease in America before 1990. However, currently, it kills much more people due to many reasons. Most importantly, the technology era has made life simple and consequently exposed many people to heart disease. Life was full of physical exercise before the Industrial Revolution since many people could live out manual labor. The main way of transportation was walking, and laundry was done using hands. Additionally, people could climb stairs, chum butter, and beat carpets. This way, they were less susceptible to cardiovascular disease.
As a result of automation, life became less laborious, because most manual labor was either assisted or replaced by machines. Cars, elevators, and washing machines among others have tremendously reduced physical activity. Consequently, the rates of heart disease have tremendously increased.
The change in lifestyle came along with a change in diet. Machines increased production and consumption of processed foods since they, among other things, could make ice cream, process cheese, and homogenize milk. Such high-fat foods were previously made by hand. Additionally, fried and cooked fatty foods such as French fries, hamburgers and potato chips that are extremely regular in most of Americans’ diets. The rich diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle increased the cases of heart attacks, clogged blood vessels and strokes. Today, cardiovascular disease is commonplace since its rate sharply augmented between 1940 and 1967 (Roger et al, 2011).
Tobacco use or smoking is another cause of heart disease. The contents and additives of tobacco, especially nicotine, according to the studies, is the main cause of heart disease linked with smoking. Smoking leads to many heart risks including decreased oxygen flow, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (Flor? and Willems, 2012).
Alcohol use is another leading cause of heart disease, because it affects the liver and may eventually lead to liver cirrhosis. Nevertheless, many people are not aware that alcohol consumption may lead to cardiovascular disease (CDC, 2013). The truth is that alcohol abuse raises the level of the fatty deposits in the blood causing atherosclerosis. Eventually, it increases blood pressure and the risks of coronary heart disease.
One of the health conditions that radically raise the risk of various conditions related to the heart is diabetes. Diabetes occurs due to the failure of the body to manufacture or use adequate insulin hence it leads to the accumulation of sugars (glucose) in the blood. It causes cardiovascular diseases entailing heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease with angina and atherosclerosis (CDC, 2002).
Further, high cholesterol and high blood pressure cause heart disease. In the body, liver naturally produces cholesterol, but it can be taken in some foods. Excess levels of cholesterol in the body accumulate in the arteries and leads to plaque upsurge that slims the arteries. On the other hand, high blood pressure occurs when the blood flows though the vessels with a high force and increases pressure against the wall hence causing strain. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to stroke or heart attack (Roger et al, 2011).
Heredity is also a cause of heart disease and, unfortunately, it cannot be controlled. A person from a family with a history of cardiovascular disease may be at a risk of developing it.
Signs and Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease may affect various parts of the body, and its signs and symptoms may be easily ascribed to other health problems (Flor? and Willems, 2012). However, doctor’s examination may establish the patterns that suggest the development of heart disease. The most common symptoms of heart disease include:
- Loss of vision
- Chest pains
- Squeezing feeling or pressure particularly after excretion
- Pain in the back, jaw or arms, particularly the left shoulder
- Hardship in catching or shortness of breath
- Impulsive severe headaches
- The lips may start to turn blue
- Abnormal or increased heartbeat
- Feeling that the heart is missing beats
- Difficulty in talking or the lack of balance and confusion (CDC, 2002)
- The extremities may experience coldness
Current Emergency Treatments
In case of a heart attack or failure, there are emergency treatments that the patient should receive to avoid further damage (CDC, 2013). The patient may undergo a procedure referred to as angioplasty that is aimed at opening the blocked or narrowed blood vessels charged with delivering blood to the heart.
In most cases, angioplasty is the first option of emergency treatment, and it has to be done within 90 minutes after reaching the hospital. Additionally, angioplasty should be administered within 12 hours of heart attack and should not take longer than that. After the angioplasty, a stent is placed inside the coronary artery. This is a “small metal mesh tube” used to expand the artery and stop it from closing up (Flor? and Willems, 2012).
Additionally, the patient may be offered drugs to break up the lump/clot. Drugs should be administered within 3 hours after experiencing the chest pains. This process is referred to as thrombolytic therapy (Flor? and Willems, 2012). In some occasions, patients may undergo heart bypass surgery aimed at opening the blocked or narrowed blood vessels charged with delivering blood to the heart. This emergency procedure is referred to as open heart surgery.
Suggestions of Approach Heart Health in Order to Avoid Cardiovascular Disease in the Future
To sum up the whole discussion, cardiovascular disease can be prevented through taking appropriate steps aimed at reducing the risk factors. Research indicates that laziness may increase the chances of heart diseases hence people should become physically active. This can easily be achieved through walking. As a result, a person will keep physically fit under no costs and prevent the risks of developing heart disease.
American citizens should take it upon themselves and start practicing good and healthy eating habits. Consequently, they must change their diets excluding fried and fatty fast foods and choosing foods with low sodium, sugar, and cholesterol. Their diets should also entail trans and saturated fats since such foods significantly reduce the risk of heart disease (Silverstein et al, 2006).
Additionally, they should start losing weight to keep it within the limits of their height and age (Roger et al, 2011). Even though it is hard to change some aspects of lifestyle, it is crucial to quit smoking and alcohol or reduce the uptake of the latter. Smoking leads to many heart risks including decreased oxygen flow, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis; on the other hand, alcohol abuse raises the level of the fatty deposits in the blood causing atherosclerosis. Eventually, it increases blood pressure and the risks of coronary heart disease. However, a change in lifestyle may significantly reduce future risks of cardiovascular disease.