Cardiovascular Conditions: Five Risk Factors
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Cardiovascular Conditions: Five Risk Factors

Cardiovascular conditions are one of the major causes of death globally. Five risk factors have been identified: smoking, nutrition, blood pressure, stress and personality.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Conditions affecting parts of the bloodstream are the most important cause of death in the western world. Most of these conditions affect either the heart (heart attacks, heart failure, arrhythmia, and so on), or the brain (brain infarcts and brain hemorrhaging, mostly caused by artery calcification). Needless to say that these are very serious issues that pose enormous challenges for the healthcare system.

Five Risk Factors

In order to get a better understanding of what causes these conditions and how to potentially slow down their development or decrease their prevalence, five risk factors have been identified:

  • Smoking: an important reason why non-smokers tend to live longer than smokers, is that smokers show an increased risk in developing cardiovascular conditions (on top of the increased risk of developing throat and lung cancer).
  • Nutrition: a high level of cholesterol in the blood increases the potential of suffering from a cardiovascular condition. Besides a genetic component, the food one eats also contributes greatly to this cholesterol level. People who consume a lot of saturated fats, run a higher risk.
  • Blood Pressure: having a blood pressure that is too high can damage the arterial wall. Especially the blood vessels in the kidney, brain and coronary arteries around the heart are susceptible to this. This is why long-lasting high blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart problems. The influence of a person’s behavior is apparent when considering that people who lack exercise, are obese and consume a lot of salt or alcohol run a higher risk.
  • Stress: as stress mobilizes the body to counter a possible threat, it has an effect on the bloodstream. Repeated activation of this defense mechanism increases the chance of a heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. This is especially the case in people who respond strongly to stressors. Stressful events also lead to a higher cholesterol.
  • Personality: since the reaction to stress factors depends strongly on personality, which is why the idea arose that based on personality tests the risk of developing cardiovascular conditions could be predicted. Initial research on this theme led to two personality types: type A and type B. Type A people are active, aggressive, hard working and competitive, whereas type B people are calm, serene and relaxed. However, no clear evidence was found to support the notion that one of these was more prone to cardiovascular conditions. Further research discerned another personality type: type D (distressed personality), which is characterized by a combination of negative emotions and social inhibition. It turns out that type D people have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular conditions.

References

  • D’Agostino, R.B.; Vasan, R.S.; Pecina, M.J.; Wolf, P.A.; Cobain, M.; Massaro, J.M. & Kannel, W.B. (2008). General Cardiovascular Risk Profile for Use in Primary Care. Circulation. 117, pp. 743 – 753.
  • Suls, J. & Bunde, J. (2005). Anger, anxiety and depression as risk factors for cardiovascular disease: The problems and implications for overlapping affective disorders. Psychological Bulletin. 131, pp. 260 – 300.

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Comments (1)

Thanks for revealing these factors, nice work Vernon.

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