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Cardiovascular Disease: Atherosclerosis and Hypertension

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Cardiovascular Disease: Atherosclerosis and Hypertension

Cardiovascular Disease also known as coronary heart disease encompasses diseases of the heart and blood vessels. The two most common forms of cardiovascular disease are atherosclerosis and hypertension (chronic high blood pressure). Both of these conditions involve the damage of blood vessels. Hypertension and atherosclerosis paired equal the greatest threat to the development of heart disease and ultimately death (Missoula County, 2004).

Atherosclerosis means “hardening of the arteries”; this is caused by a build up of cholesterol and other fatty substance within the walls of the arteries. In atherosclerosis, fatty deposits called plaque, build up on the inner wall of the coronary arteries. These fatty deposits usually develop over many years. Plaque is composed of porridge like accumulation of cholesterol and their compounds within a fibrous coat. After it builds up, the injury to the arteries signal the immune system to release white blood cells to the site. This initiates a process called the inflammatory response. Macrophages literally “eat” the oxidized cholesterol leaving behind foamy cells that attach to the artery’s smooth muscle cells. The foamy cells then buildup within the artery. After the immune system senses the foamy cells, it releases other factors called cytokines, which attract more white blood cells and perpetuate the whole cycle. This usually repeats itself forming atherosclerotic lesions (Mamashealth.com, 2004).

Hypertension the formal name given to high blood pressure by the medical community is referred to as the silent killer, because it presents no symptoms that can be felt. It only often revealed during routine checkups or during the treatment of other conditions. Hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure is persistently above normal. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers in a fraction. The first number reflects the pressure of blood in the arteries when the heart’s ventricles contract in the form of systolic pressure. The second number reflects the arterial pressure between heartbeats in the form of diastolic pressure. Ideal pressure is 120 over 80 or lower, borderline normal pressure is 130 over 85, and anything above this level is considered hypertension, which is now at risk development of heart disease (Health Libary, 2004). With a normal blood pressure the body’s cells correctly receive needed nutritional and oxygen supplies while releasing waste and toxins. Hypertension causes cracks and tiny tears in the linings of the arteries, which try to repair themselves by depositing plaques in the cracks. The sites of arteries often receiving the most damage are those closest to the heart, or points of highest pressure. The plaque restricts blood flow to the kidneys, which in its function to force waste out of the body’s fluids raises the blood pressure higher and higher. The progressive condition which if left unchecked, uncontrolled, resistant to treatment leads to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke (Marsh, 2003).

Hypertension added to atherosclerosis increases arterial injuries, deposits more plaque in the blood vessels, which makes these weakened vessels more likely to burst. Hardened arteries also fail to let blood freely flow through the kidneys, which control blood pressure. When the kidneys sense the reduced flow they think the blood pressure is too low and respond to regulate the blood flow by raising the blood pressure to increase the blood flow (Whitney & Sizer, 2003).

The cardiovascular system circulates nutrients and oxygen by the means of blood vessels to cells throughout the body. The heart is a muscle that contracts and pushes the blood throughout the human body. The heart is a vital organ about the size of a fist that has valves and is located in the chest cavity of the human body. Any obstruction to any of the valves or chambers can cause the heart to develop an acute arterial occlusive disorder such as hypertension, which can cause a heart attack and kill the heart muscles resulting to death (National Institutes of Heath, 2004).

The causes of high blood pressure vary. Based upon studies from the National Institutes of Health, causes for high blood pressure include narrowing of the arteries, a greater than normal volume of blood, or the heart beating faster, rather more forcefully than normal. Any of these conditions will cause increased pressure against artery walls. High blood pressure might also be caused by another medical issue. The majority of time, the cause is not known. Our diet, definitely, plays a crucial role in the development of hypertension along with stress (National Institutes of Heath, 2004).

Hypertension is most related to dietary factors, the diet. Dietary factors have been shown to correlate with blood pressure, including sodium to potassium ratio, percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and magnesium content,

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