Understanding Cardiovascular Disease and How to Prevent It

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As a GP,  Dr Bikram Ratti often encounters patients who are surprised to learn they have cardiovascular disease (CVD). Many associate heart issues with dramatic symptoms, but the truth is, CVD can progress silently for years. Understanding this disease and knowing how to prevent it can save your life. Let’s dive into what CVD is and the steps you can take to keep your heart healthy.

What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term that encompasses various heart and blood vessel disorders, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems. The most common type is coronary artery disease, which is the leading cause of heart attacks. This condition occurs when the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle, become narrowed or blocked due to plaque buildup—a process known as atherosclerosis.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors contribute to the development of CVD:

1. High Blood Pressure:  Hypertension can damage blood vessels and heart over time.

2. High Cholesterol:  Elevated levels of cholesterol can lead to plaque formation in arteries.

3. Smoking:  Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for CVD.

4. Diabetes: Poorly controlled blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the heart.

5. Obesity: Excess weight often exacerbates other risk factors.

6. Physical Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle contributes to various cardiovascular risks.

7. Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol increase the risk.

8. Family History: A family history of heart disease can increase your risk.

9. Age and Gender: The risk increases with age, and men are generally at higher risk earlier in life compared to women.

Symptoms to Watch For

While CVD can be silent, it’s important to recognise symptoms that might indicate heart problems:

– Chest pain or discomfort (angina)

– Shortness of breath

– Pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed

– Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen, or back

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Prevention Tips

Preventing cardiovascular disease involves adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Healthy Eating: Adopt a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit intake of salt, sugar, and trans fats.

2. Regular Exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, plus muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

4. Avoid Smoking: If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.

5. Limit Alcohol: Drink alcohol in moderation—up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

6. Monitor Blood Pressure: Keep your blood pressure under control with lifestyle changes and medications if necessary.

7. Control Cholesterol Levels: Regular screenings and medications can help manage cholesterol.

8. Manage Diabetes: Keep your blood sugar levels in check through diet, exercise, and medication.

9. Stress Management: Reduce stress through relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or hobbies.

 Regular Check-ups

Routine check-ups are essential, especially if you have risk factors. Regular screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes can detect problems early and allow for timely interventions.


Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death worldwide, but it’s largely preventable. By adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle and managing risk factors, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing CVD. Remember, it’s never too late to make positive changes to protect your heart health. If you have any concerns or questions, consult with your healthcare provider to develop a personalised prevention plan.

Stay heart-healthy!

Dr Bikram Ratti