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What Causes Cardiovascular Disease? Essay

1025 words - 4 pages

What causes cardiovascular disease? Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one killer in North America. These diseases--such as heart attack, stroke, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis and arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure--and their risk factors are so interrelated that it is very difficult to say "where it all begins." One place to look when sorting this out is with arteriosclerosis.ArteriosclerosisArteriosclerosis is the buildup of plaque in the arteries. It develops slowly, with soft, fatty streaks gradually accumulating along the inner walls of the arteries, especially where they branch. With time, the streaks grow larger and start hardening into plaque.The danger is that plaque can lead to aneurysms and blood clots, and clots in turn can result in thrombosis, heart attack, and stroke.An aneurysm occurs when the wall of a blood vessel weakens and balloons out. Like a balloon, the aneurysm can eventually burst. If this happens in a major artery, such as the aorta, it can lead to massive bleeding and death.Arteriosclerosis can also upset the delicate balance of blood clots. Clots continually form and dissolve in our bloodstream, and it is important that this balance be kept. Clots form when blood platelets encounter an injury. Because the body considers plaque buildup an injury, platelets rush to the scene and begin the clotting process. The formed clot may remain attached to the plaque and continue growing. A clot that grows to the point that it obstructs a blood vessel is called a thrombus. It can shut off the blood supply to some body tissues. If this occurs in a blood vessel that feeds the heart, it is called a coronary thrombosis. If it occurs in an artery in the brain, killing brain tissue, it is called a cerebral thrombosis.A clot can also break loose (called an embolus) and travel throughout the circulatory system. In its travels, it may get stuck in a smaller artery, blocking the flow of blood. This blockage cuts off the supply of life-giving oxygen and nutrients, and the tissue fed by the artery dies. If an embolus lodges in an artery of the heart, depriving the heart of essential nutrients, a part of the heart can die--a heart attack. If the embolus lodges in an artery of the brain, it is a stroke.Once this begins If plaque and arteriosclerosis are a beginning for CVD, a number of risk factors accelerate the process.As we age, risk increases. About four out of five people who die of a heart attack are over age 65. At older ages, women who have heart attacks are twice as likely as men who have heart attacks to die from them within a few weeks.Gender and genes make a difference. Males are more likely to have coronary heart disease than females, whether younger or older. Children of those who have had some type of CVD are more likely to develop it.Smokers' risk of heart attack is more than twice that of nonsmokers', and smokers' risk of sudden cardiac death is two to four times that of nonsmokers'.High cholesterol...

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