Cardiovascular Disease

What is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and they include:

  • Coronary heart disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle.
  • Cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain.
  • Peripheral arterial disease – disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs.
  • Rheumatic heart disease – damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria.
  • Congenital heart disease – malformations of heart structure existing at birth.
  • Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.

Heart attacks and strokes are usually acute events and are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The most common reason for this is a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart or brain. Strokes can also be caused by bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain or from blood clots. The cause of heart attacks and strokes are usually the presence of a combination of risk factors, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol, hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidaemia.

What are the symptoms of CVD?

Often, there are no symptoms of the underlying disease of the blood vessels. A heart attack or stroke may be the first warning of underlying disease. Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest.
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, the left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back.

In addition the person may experience: difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath; feeling sick or vomiting; feeling light-headed or faint; breaking into a cold sweat; and becoming pale. Women are more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

The most common symptom of a stroke is sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg, most often on one side of the body. Other symptoms include sudden onset of:

  • Numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
  • Difficulty seeing with one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.
  • Fainting or unconsciousness.
  • Irregular heart beats.

People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

What are the causes of CVD?

The exact cause of CVD isn't clear, but there are lots of things that can increase your risk of getting it. These are called "risk factors". The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing CVD.

The main risk factors for CVD are outlined below:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most important risk factors for CVD. If your blood pressure is too high, it can damage your blood vessels.
  • Smoking: Smoking and other tobacco use is also a significant risk factor for CVD. The harmful substances in tobacco can damage and narrow your blood vessels.
  • High cholesterol:Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. If you have high cholesterol, it can cause your blood vessels to narrow and increase your risk of developing a blood clot.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes your blood sugar level to become too high. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels, making them more likely to become narrowed. Many people with type 2 diabetes are also overweight or obese, which is also a risk factor for CVD.
  • Inactivity: If you don't exercise regularly, it's more likely that you'll have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and be overweight. All of these are risk factors for CVD. Exercising regularly will help keep your heart healthy. When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Being overweight or obese: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for CVD. You're at an increased risk of CVD if:
    - Your body mass index (BMI) is 25 or above – use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your BMI.
    - You're a man with a waist measurement of 94cm (about 37 inches) or more, or a woman with a waist measurement of 80cm (about 31.5 inches) or more.
  • Family history of CVD: If you have a family history of CVD, your risk of developing it is also increased.
    You're considered to have a family history of CVD if either:
    - Your father or brother were diagnosed with CVD before they were 55.
    - Your mother or sister were diagnosed with CVD before they were 65.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have a family history of CVD. They may suggest checking your blood pressure and cholesterol level.

How to prevent CVD?

A healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of CVD. If you already have CVD, staying as healthy as possible can reduce the chances of it getting worse.

Ways you can reduce your CVD risk are outlined below:

  • Stop smoking: If you smoke, you should try to give up as soon as possible. Your GP can also provide you with advice and support, they can also prescribe medication to help you quit.
  • Have a balanced diet: A healthy, balanced diet is recommended for a healthy heart. A balanced diet includes:
    - low levels of saturated fat (found in foods such as fatty cuts of meat, cream, cakes and biscuits) – try to include healthier sources of fat, such as oily fish, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
    - low levels of salt – aim for less than 6g (0.2 oz or one teaspoon) a day.
    - low levels of sugar – aim for less than 35 g per day.
    - plenty of fiber and wholegrain foods.
    - plenty of fruit and vegetables – eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Exercise regularly:Adults are advised to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, such as cycling or brisk walking. If you find it difficult to do this, start at a level you feel comfortable with and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your activity as your fitness improves.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: If you're overweight or obese, a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you lose weight. Aim to get your BMI below 25. If you're struggling to lose weight, your GP or practice nurse can help you come up with a weight loss plan and recommend services in your area.
  • Treatment and Surgery procedure for CVD: For secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in those with established disease, including diabetes, treatments with the following medications are necessary:
    - aspirin.
    - beta-blockers.
    - angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.
    - statins.
    In addition costly surgical operations are sometimes required to treat CVDs. They include:
    - coronary artery bypass.
    - balloon angioplasty (where a small balloon-like device is threaded through an artery to open the blockage).
    - valve repair and replacement.
    - heart transplantation.
    - artificial heart operations.

Medical devices are required to treat some CVDs. Such devices include pacemakers, prosthetic valves, and patches for closing holes in the heart.

Does my Insurance Policy covers treatment and surgery of CVD?

Yes. According to CCHI unified Policy terms and conditions, health insurance policies in Saudi Arabia cover the treatment and surgery of CVD.

Please Click Here to access the Unified CCHI Policy Wordings.


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“Cardiovascular Disease” Rules. N.p., n.d. Web. Aug. 2016.