Most people never give much thought to their heart and arteries until something goes wrong. This is a testament to how seamlessly the heart and arteries function as part of your cardiovascular system. Every day the heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through blood vessels to carry critical oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body and remove waste products. This all takes place while you are working, sleeping, shopping, exercising - during everything that you do.
When something does go wrong, it can be frightening. Cardiovascular disease is serious - and it can have serious consequences for people at all stages of life.
That's why it is important to understand that everyone is at risk.
- Many people think heart disease is an illness of the elderly. Not true - each year in the United States, approximately 36,000 children are born with heart defects.
- You may think of cardiovascular disease as a men's disease. Not true - cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both women and men in the United States and in many other parts of the world.
In short, heart health is a priority for everyone.
If heart disease can potentially affect everyone, how does it happen in the first place? Problems of the heart and arteries can develop in two ways: over time or from birth.
1. Heart disease that develops over time is called acquired cardiovascular disease. Everyone sustains damage to the cardiovascular system as part of the aging process. Additionally, lifestyle and genetic factors can come into play.
2. Cardiovascular disease that is present at birth is called congenital heart disease. Heart defects and other forms of congenital heart disease are often diagnosed in children but are sometimes not identified until adulthood.
Fortunately, treatment options for both acquired and congenital heart disease are improving all the time. Today, compared to 30 years ago, roughly one-third more children born with congenital heart defects survive to adulthood, according to a report from the American Heart Association. For patients with acquired cardiovascular disease, the one-year mortality rate after a heart attack is now only 4 to 8 percent – a dramatic improvement compared to the 40 percent death rate of just 30 years ago.
These are impressive gains, but there is more work to be done, and it starts with understanding how the cardiovascular system works.
Follow the SecondsCount links below to
- understand the scope of cardiovascular disease in the United States
- learn how your heart and blood vessels function
- know what happens when something goes wrong
If you or someone you love has cardiovascular disease, or has risk factors for heart disease, please also take time to learn more about the Cardiovascular Care Team, so you know whom to turn to – and whom to work with – to develop a personalized plan for prevention, early diagnosis, and effective treatment.