Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of disability and premature death worldwide.
The fundamental issue is atherosclerosis, which is a degenerative disease of the arteries caused by the progressive accumulation of fatty deposits (cholesterol, triglycerides) in the walls of the arteries. This causes the blood to flow with more difficulty, increasing the risk of obstruction of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis is a silent disease, developing quietly over the years without causing symptoms. The first manifestation could be in the form of a myocardial infarction or stroke, when the disease is already in an advanced stage.
It is therefore very important to identify patients that are at risk, who have never experienced any symptoms, as it can prevent the later development of this type of problem.
According to the Portuguese Society of Atherosclerosis, the global concept of cardiovascular risk allows for a clearer understanding of the causes, prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis. The purpose of this assessment is not the identification of an individual risk factor. The purpose is to obtain a global recognition of the patient’s cardiovascular risk.
Multiple benefits derive from this type of screening:
▪ Identifying high-risk patients is important in order for the patient to initiate treatment as early as possible;
▪ Establishing a timely action plan through prevention or treatment of risk factors, altering the treatment according to the patient’s needs;
▪ Motivation for patients to continue complying with the measures adopted which meant a lifestyle change including taking necessary medication.
▪ And also, to duly value the need for and effectiveness of some of the treatments indicated for this pathology.
Atherosclerosis is mainly related to vascular risk factors and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The main risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis are:
▪ High blood pressure
In addition, genetic factors must be considered that, in some cases, might determine the development of the disease.
Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease
The key to reducing these risk factors is prevention. It is therefore necessary to adopt a healthier lifestyle and to make sure that the previously identified risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease are controlled.
It is essential to alter lifestyles and correct risk factors:
▪ Correct eating habits: avoid eating saturated fatty food. Increase the intake of water, fruit and vegetables.
▪ Practice regular physical activity on a regular basis (aerobic exercise such as cycling, swimming, running or walking briskly).
▪ Reduce the intake of alcohol.
▪ Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the risk factors of atherosclerosis.
▪ In cases where patients already manifest some of the above risk factors, adequate control can be obtained through medication which will inhibit the development of atherosclerosis.
This set of measures is aimed at preventing the disease and its consequences.
Consultation for the evaluation of Cardiovascular Risk
The decision to initiate a Cardiovascular Risk Consultation at the Hospital Particular do Algarve arose due to the recognised need for a comprehensive assessment of these patients.
The first steps that are taken during this consultation are:
▪ Blood Pressure: assessment of blood pressure values, both during the consultation and results obtained at home, advice on diet; taking into account the patient’s general health and medical history request for various screening tests and/or treatment.
▪ Diabetes: promoting a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise. Periodical analytical evaluation for diabetes, as well as for other pathologies.
▪ Obesity: advice on regular physical activity and diet and on how to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. In cases where the patient does not respond to regular exercise it may be advised to undergo physiotherapy in cases that do not respond to regular exercise or possibly even for surgery.
▪ Smoking: information on the benefits of quitting smoking; promoting lifestyle changes: planning targeted screening tests or treatment, which may include respiratory physiotherapy.
▪ Cholesterol: lipid profile evaluation; dietary advice; study of family hypercholesterolaemia; treatment indication.
The Cardiovascular Risk Consultation is available at the Hospital Particular do Algarve in Gambelas, by appointment only. On Wednesdays with Dr Dr Rafael Muñoz and on Thursdays with Dr Manuel Calzado.
By Dr. Rafael Muñoz
|| [email protected]
Dr. Rafael Muñoz is an Internal Medicine specialist at the Hospital Particular do Algarve