“More women are dying from Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) than breast cancer. A woman is five times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke (22% chance) than from breast cancer (3% chance) (Leening, 2014).
For both men and women, statistics from the Australian Heart Foundation show that one Australian dies every 12 minutes as a result of CVD, and it is the leading cause of death in the western world” (WHO, 2012)
CVD is a term that encompasses a wide variety of diseases but primarily includes heart attacks, angina, and strokes. Heart attacks occur more often in men, while women tend to be more likely to suffer from a stroke.
Research suggests that a CVD episode in men is more often triggered by a highly stressful incident whereas episodes in women are more often the result of high levels of chronic ongoing stress (Leening, 2014). Two out of three people will experience CVD at some point in their life.
High blood pressure
Of interest, the latest research assessing high blood pressure monitoring has raised new concerns because current guidelines were found to be inadequate.
SPRINT (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial), a trial that was published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine (Group, 2015), was a large randomised controlled trial whose aim was to identify the optimal level of blood pressure control for those suffering from high blood pressure (HBP) and at high risk of CVD.
The results were critical as the study found that the risk of dying was reduced by 27% if participants were treated with blood pressure medication that targets their systolic blood pressure (the upper reading) to bring it below 120 millimetres of mercury. Currently, medical protocol recommends that the target systolic blood pressure be 140, however researchers found this systolic level left people at high risk.
Low blood pressure
Low blood pressure, which is often overlooked is also of concern, and a recent study at Johns Hopkins University has identified that a low diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number on a blood pressure reading) can also predict increased risk of heart attack and stroke. (McEvoy, 2016).
Atrial fibrillation, is an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood to pool in the left atrium of the heart, causing clots to develop that may lead to a stroke.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include breathlessness, chest discomfort, and palpitations and although these symptoms can be mild, the condition still poses a significant risk of stroke.
Encouragingly, according to the INTERHEART study, which examined CVD risk factors in 51 countries, nine out of the ten strongest risk factors are modifiable by changes in diet and lifestyle (Yusef, 2004).
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