Health Education Department
Cardiovascular Disease: What is it?
Cardiovascular disease and stroke remain the number one and number three causes of death in Texas and account for nearly one third of all deaths in our state. In addition to the human and emotional toll, the financial burden of cardiovascular disease and stroke in Texas exceeded ten billion dollars in hospitalization charges in 2006. A number of trends indicate this burden will only increase in the future:
- The aging of the population will be an increasing factor as "baby boomers" reach ages when cardiovascular disease and stroke are most prevalent.
- The prevalence of morbid obesity in Texas is rising. More than one in five adult Texans are obese and over two thirds of adult Texans are overweight or obese.
- Health care, school, and work sites are not keeping pace with the need for healthier food choices and an environment conducive to increasing physical activity
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways. About 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure and usually has no symptoms. You can have it for years without knowing it. During this time, though, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat. The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. Its cell walls, or membranes, need cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. But the body needs only a limited amount of cholesterol to meet its needs. When too much is present health problems such as heart disease may develop.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked. If the flow of blood isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die.
Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.
A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is disrupted, causing brain cells to die. When blood flow to the brain is impaired, oxygen and glucose cannot be delivered to the brain.