Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, refers to any condition that may negatively impact the functioning of the heart or the blood vessels leading to the heart. Some of the most common disorders that affect the heart include arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, hypertension, congenital heart defects, and related acute coronary syndromes. Collectively, these forms of heart disease contribute to the most deaths among both men and women in the U.S. each year. In fact, at least 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to heart disease, more than the total from all cancers.
With statistics like those above, it’s no wonder that heart disease has been dubbed a silent killer of epidemic proportion. However, many cardiovascular disorders are largely preventable. In addition, there are several different types of cardiovascular therapies available that can help to improve blood flow and functioning of the heart and lungs.
The very first cardiovascular therapy to consider is taking a proactive self-help approach in terms of lifestyle and dietary habits. Smoking, a diet high in saturated fats, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of regular exercise all contribute to the development of heart disease. In fact, making responsible choices in these areas alone can significantly decrease the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
However, it is also true that precautionary measures are not always enough to prevent cardiovascular disease. Genetics, congenital defects, bacterial infections, and even taking certain medications simply put some people at higher risk regardless of lifestyle and diet. If this is the case, it may be necessary to use medications to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. This course of cardiovascular therapy typically consists of beta blockers, diuretics, statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and/or anti-arrhythmic medications. For infection-related heart disorders, such as pericarditis or myocarditis, antibiotic therapy may be needed.
At times, surgical intervention will be the cardiovascular therapy of choice. For instance, some kinds of congenital heart defects may be repaired surgically through the use of a specialized catheter to help the surgeon navigate around the heart. Or, open heart surgery may be necessary to repair or replace a valve or address another defect. Coronary artery bypass surgery, for example, replaces a failing portion of artery with a healthy one taken from another part of the body. In the worst-case scenario, a total heart transplant may be the only viable cardiovascular therapy, if the defect cannot be corrected surgically.
Other medical procedures are available to assist the heart in performing better which are less invasive than open surgical methods. For example, the insertion of a mechanical device, such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), can regulate heart rhythm. If there is pulmonary valve dysfunction that is not so severe as to require surgical repair, the patient may receive balloon valvuloplasty to expand the valve opening to improve circulation.