Heart Disease Causes & Risk Factors

Posted By PVA Admin on February 14, 2018
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Cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer of Americans, and is the leading cause of hospitalization in the VA health care system. It is also a major cause of disability.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans, and is the leading cause of hospitalization in the VA health care system and a major cause of disability. Cardiovascular disease is particularly important to Veterans because it is associated with a number of other diseases that often affect them. These include diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Although there are many different forms of cardiovascular disease, one of the most common forms is a narrowing or a blocking of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. This is called coronary artery disease (CAD), and is the primary cause of heart attacks.

Studies have shown that early treatment of moderate high blood pressure can prevent and delay the complications of hypertension. Hypertension includes heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and coronary artery disease. VA researchers are developing new treatments for cardiovascular disease and helping to improve existing treatments. They are looking at the genetic and lifestyle causes of the disease and are conducting studies ranging from lab experiments to large clinical trials involving thousands of patients.

Arguably, the most crucial aspect of heart disease prevention is awareness. VA is taking positive steps towards making veterans and their families aware of the risk factors associated with heart disease. Besides high blood pressure, these include smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity and uncontrolled diabetes. Luckily, the VA offers programs to help veterans manage these conditions.

Cardiovascular Disease Facts

  • According to the National Institute of Aging, more than 60 percent of people over age 65 have high blood pressure, the main contributor to heart disease, and the number of people with high blood pressure is increasing.
  • Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have reduced blood flow to the heart. The more severe the PTSD symptoms are, the greater the risk of reduced blood flow.
  • In addition to PTSD, combat deployment itself poses a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Out of more than 60,000 service members and recent veterans, and the odds of a cardiovascular disease diagnosis were 60 percent higher among combat deployers, versus noncombat deployers.
  • Hypoglycemia (low levels of glucose in the bloodstream) may be associated with the progression of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up on artery walls, is the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.

To read the original article, visit research.va.gov

Paralyzed Veterans of America’s team of architects, advocates, and licensed medical professionals conduct routine site visits to 31 VA Spinal Cord Injury units and Long-term Care Centers to ensure quality care standards are met. Medical Services also operates a SCI/D hotline and develops consumer and clinical practice guidelines widely considered to set the standard of care.

Paralyzed Veterans is also the only veterans service organization that routinely audits VA hospitals to ensure quality healthcare and best practices.

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