Health Corner 4 - Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs): Cardiovascular Disease

Continuing with the review of the big umbrella under NCDs, now we’ll focus on Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs). This is an extensive chapter, not only because of all the affected areas in the body but also for all the impact on quality of life of the sick person, their family and the commu-nity.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disor-ders of the heart and blood vessels such as: coronary heart disease (heart attack), cerebrovas-cular disease (stroke), rheumatic heart diseases, congenital heart diseases and heart failure.
The heart is located in the chest and together with the blood vessels (arteries and veins) work to distribute the blood supply to the whole body. This cardiovascular system, in charge of the circu-lation, is influenced by other parts of the body like the lungs, the kidneys, the brain as well as other factors of our lives, such as infections, stress, overweight, physical activity, food.
CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioral risk factors.
An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke .
>75% of CVD deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
Out of the 17 million premature deaths (under the age of 70) due to noncommunicable dis-eases in 2015, 82% are in low- and middle-income countries, and 37% are caused by CVDs.
80% of all CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes or four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes.
People with cardiovascular disease need early detection and management using coun-seling and medicines.

Some of the risks for CVDs are: hypertension (raised blood pressure), diabetes (high blood su-gar), elevated blood lipids (cholesterol or triglycerides), overweight and obesity, tobacco use, an unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.
Let’s think that the heart is a pump and the blood vessels are hoses. The effort that the pump has to use to bring blood to all the hoses depends on the “resistance” of the hoses. When our food is too salty, the portion is too big or with many sugars (carbs) or fats and/or we do not exercise enough; our “hoses” or blood vessels increase the “resistance”, making the heart to work harder. The body can adjust and make changes to manage this extra effort for awhile, but eventually the compensation is not possible anymore and we get sick. This increase of “resistance” is the hypertension, or our hoses are blocked with all the cholesterol (plaque) interrupting the blood circulation to the heart, giving us a heart attack or to the brain, resulting in a stroke or providing that pump is not strong enough to keep pumping, heart failure or insufficiency.
Integrative Medicine is a practice based on the consciousness, in the recognition of the balance and harmony as well as the imbalance and disharmony we are facing as a disease. We promote giving the patient all the information, tools and support to make the click, to acknowledge res-ponsibility on their own health, to integrate all the available diagnostic and therapeutical resources to heal. We can do more than just give medicines as that is just one little portion of the ma-nagement.
What can you do to prevent or help your family prevent having a CVD or dying for it? First step is being informed, being aware, knowing the disease and the risks. Once you know, you need to be screened to know if you have it. For diagnosis, counseling, and management, you can visit the Public Health facilities, the Community Clinic, the Hospital, and the Dispensaries.
The most important thing is working on your risk factors:
• Engage in physical activity:
- At least 30 minutes every day.
• Start a long term healthy eating:
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,
- Limit your salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day.
• Cease tobacco or join a tobacco cessation program.
• Reduce or avoid alcohol consumption.
If we work together as a team to recover the lost balance in our bodies, in our society, if we start the healthy habits that we had before facing this NCD crisis, we can beat NCDs.
Mabel Loján, MD
Integrative Medicine