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Cardiovascular Health

What Is Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the number one cause of death in the world, accounting for more than 30% of all deaths globally [1]. CVD can be a genetic condition, but it is most commonly caused by unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse. The most common signs of cardiovascular disease are increased blood pressure and raised blood glucose and lipids. Cardiovascular disease is a blanket term that covers many different conditions related to the heart. They include:


Angina (Coronary Artery Disease)

Angina is actually a symptom of coronary artery disease, a condition where a blockage occurs in one or more arteries feeding the heart. As the artery becomes more blocked, the heart reacts by demanding more blood flow than is able to pass through the obstructed area. Angina can cause symptoms that are close to those of a heart attack, including pain and discomfort in the chest and left arm as well as nausea. It also causes tightness in the chest, which can last for a few minutes before clearing up on its own. Most of the time, however, none of these symptoms present themselves until the blockage has hit around 70%, making it extremely important to get checked regularly and attempt to prevent it from occurring at all.

Angina is a sign of serious heart disease and having this condition dramatically increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.


Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation means a person has an irregular heartbeat, or heart palpitations. This condition causes the feeling of a missed heartbeat or feeling like extra beats were fit into the normal pattern. Atrial fibrillation is caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the heart, and while most cases of atrial fibrillation are not directly life threatening, they do increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack later in life.

Atrial fibrillation is caused by damage to the heart tissue, menopause, old age, anxiety, or genetic and congenital defects.


Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy affects the function of the heart muscle by negatively impacting its ability to contract and force the movement of blood through the cardiovascular system. There are many causes of cardiomyopathy and they all depend on what caused them in the first place, but all will result in a reduction of the heart’s ability to oxygenate the blood in the human body.


Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is a condition that is present at birth. It is most often caused by a problem during fetal development and can result in varying degrees of dysfunction throughout a person’s life. Depending on the severity, it is a condition that might require in-depth treatment like surgery, but certainly life-long medical treatment.


Congestive Heart Failure

After the heart has been injured it runs a high risk of going into congestive heart failure. This usually happens after a heart attack or after years of stress from pumping against hardened arteries due to high blood pressure. Congestive heart failure means the heart is unable to pump blood effectively through the body.

Whichever side of the heart has taken the damage is the side of the body that will experience the most symptoms. If the right side of the heart is damaged, blood will pool in the lungs. This will cause pulmonary edema, coughing, and shortness of breath. If the left side of the heart is damaged, a person will experience blood pooling in the rest of the body, including the arms and legs.


Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

When the flow of blood that feeds into the heart is blocked by plaque, a heart attack occurs. The heart muscle is so strong it demands a constant supply of oxygen to beat properly, so even a slight disruption of that process can have dangerous results. The specialized heart cells can die off causing immediate damage and death if it’s not treated immediately.

Often the extent of the damage to the heart during a myocardial infarction is too much for the body to repair effectively and there is permanent damage to the heart and an overall reduced quality of life for the victim. Heart attacks are usually the stepping stone for congestive heart failure and arrhythmias.


Causes of Heart Disease

There are many causes of heart disease, some more common than others. As mentioned above, some heart conditions are genetic and unavoidable. Many, however, are caused by lifestyle choices. The most common causes of cardiovascular diseases are:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption: this varies per person, but the general rule is anything over 8-15 drinks per week or prolonged binge drinking is considered excessive [2].

  • Atherosclerosis: a disease that causes the arteries to collect fatty material, or plaque, on the inner walls.

  • Autoimmune disease: a condition that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy cells.

  • Bacterial infections: caused by microorganisms invading healthy tissue.

  • Diabetes: a disease that is the result of too much sugar in the blood.

  • High blood pressure: this condition is the result of too much blood force against the artery walls.

  • High sodium diet: the American Heart Association recommends adults eat 1500 mg or less of sodium a day. The average American actually consumes around 3400 mg of sodium per day [3].

  • High trans fat diet: the American Heart Association recommends limiting the intake of trans fats completely, instead using monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats for all food [4].

  • Metabolic syndrome: a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat in the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

  • Recreational drug use: ingesting these harmful substances may be associated with the deterioration of the cardiovascular system [5].

  • Sedentary lifestyle: this means little to no physical activity during a normal day.

  • Side-effect of medication: prescription drugs can help people manage their acute or chronic conditions, but often they come with risks.

  • Smoking: smoking raises the triglycerides in the blood and lowers the good cholesterol of the body. It also causes the blood to thicken and become more likely to clot, while also damaging the cells that line the blood vessels [6].

  • Stress: the connection between stress and heart disease is still under investigation, but because stress puts the body on constant high alert, often people turn to bad behaviors to try to reduce their stress. Whether this is increased alcohol consumption, cigarettes, drug use, or food, they can all lead to increased risk of heart disease.

  • Viral infections: while rare, it is possible for a virus to weaken the system enough for a heart condition to form.


Common Treatment Options

Many current treatment plans include dietary and lifestyle changes, like healthy eating and daily exercise. This is usually combined with a medication plan and sometimes means daily medication for life and a totally altered diet and lifestyle. It is important to make these changes while also working to reduce overall stress in order to keep the bad behavior triggers away. Some patients are learning more about CBD, though, and the effect it can have on their current treatment plan or how it can enhance what they already do on a daily basis. Many are interested in it as a more natural option to a treatment that will have to be maintained for years and years. Let’s take a look at what CBD can do for cardiovascular health.


CBD and the Cardiovascular System


High Blood Pressure

There are many causes of high blood pressure, including genes and diet, but research is starting to show that stress is also a trigger for high blood pressure. In a study on rats, scientists observed increased blood pressure and heart rate in the animals that were exposed to stressful situations. The study also found that giving the rats a dose of CBD lowered their blood pressure and heart rate quickly [7]. Another study that used human volunteers concluded that a single dose of CBD was more successful in reducing their blood pressure than the placebo [8].


Stroke

A stroke is caused by a blood clot blocking blood flow to the brain, and clots can form for a number or reasons. Recent studies on animals, however, have shown that CBD may help protect stroke patients from possible brain damage while also increasing brain function, helping stroke victims recover faster [9]. It has also been found to help increase cerebral blood flow during a stroke, meaning there could be less damage overall and a more positive recovery outlook [10].


Myocarditis

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the muscular tissue around the heart. A recent animal study found CBD beneficial in reducing myocarditis and general myocardial dysfunction and overall heart failure. This result is largely due to CBD’s apparent anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic properties [11].


Myocardial Ischaemia and Arrhythmia

Ischaemia is an inadequate supply of blood to an organ or part of the body, the heart muscle in particular. Ischemia is often a cause of arrhythmias in humans. If blood isn’t carried to the entire body, the affected areas will be denied the necessary nutrients and risk necrosis. A study performed on rats concluded that CBD appeared to have cardioprotective effects. After administering CBD to the animals, researchers found CBD to suppress arrhythmias caused by ischaemia [12].


Conclusion

Heart disease can be extremely distressing and usually means a lifetime of management and lifestyle changes. Prevention is crucial in cardiovascular health and there is evidence that CBD can be helpful in that pursuit. Heart disease is a sensitive balance of medication and lifestyle adjustments, so always consult your doctor before adding any new supplement to your treatment plan.

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