Heart to heart

The cardiovascular system, otherwise known as the circulatory system, is one of the foundations of the functioning of the human body perfected over centuries of evolution. Unfortunately, despite this, it is not without imperfections that can pose a serious threat to human health and life.

The circulatory system, in general, consists of the heart, which is a kind of suction and pressure pump, and a kilometer-long network of venous and arterial vessels, through which all the cells that need it can receive the oxygen and nutrients necessary for life, as well as dispose of the products of metabolism or distribute the produced regulatory substances throughout the body.

The cardiovascular system, as a form of hydraulic system is governed by the laws of biology but also physics. A prerequisite for the proper functioning of the body is, among other things, the maintenance of normal pressure and the diameter and elasticity of blood vessels.


Do heart diseases affect me?

Heart disease affects people of all ages and is not just the domain of the elderly. Proper lifestyle and preventive measures are aimed at early detection of deviations and introduction of lifestyle modifications, allowing to avoid often irreversible and adverse changes in the cardiovascular system.

According to Global Burden of Disease, in 2019, 95,000 women and 79,000 men will die from cardiovascular diseases in Poland, accounting for 48.6% of causes of death among the female sex and 37.8% among the male sex.

Let’s remember that diseases related to the cardiovascular system are not only conditions directly related to the heart. Pathologies related to blood vessels, such as arteriosclerosis, can lead to stroke, which can cause disability or ischemic limb disease.


What does looking at store windows have to do with cardiovascular disease?

A surprising connection? Just as surprising and not obvious may be the symptoms of cardiovascular problems. In the case of untreated high lipid (“cholesterol”) levels, for example, along with the coexistence of other risk factors such as smoking, arteriosclerosis can develop. In the case of atherosclerosis of the lower extremities, there is a narrowing of the lumen of the vessel and a reduction in the amount of oxygen-rich blood supplied to the muscles. A characteristic symptom then is the phenomenon of so-called “stoppage chroma”, when after walking even a small distance, there is severe pain in the muscles of the lower limbs, which subsides after rest. Affected people often have to stop walking, and they use these breaks, for example, to look at store windows, which is a kind of sociological-medical phenomenon and is related to the sense of “shame” associated with the health ailment – in order not to draw the attention of those around them to their ailments, they try to justify their rest breaks in this way.


How to prevent cardiovascular disease?

The condition of our cardiovascular system is extremely dependent on lifestyle, including physical activity, diet or use of stimulants.

In order to maintain the best possible fitness of our heart and vessels, it is important to remember to exercise regularly, tailored to individual abilities, involving at least 30 minutes of activity, of moderate intensity, at least 3 times a week. Another important element is to avoid smoking, including the use of nicotine in other forms, as well as avoiding the consumption of alcohol or other psychoactive drugs.

An obvious, often downplayed element is the use of a proper, varied diet, limiting carbohydrates, eliminating simple sugars and increasing the supply of protein and fatty acids, aimed at improving the lipid profile and lowering triglycerides.


How to treat cardiovascular diseases?

Treatment of cardiovascular disease is related to the individual profile of the disease and is difficult to put in a general form. Unfortunately, an underestimated and extremely effective method is lifestyle modification, with reduction of risk factors – in most cases, especially low-grade pathologies, this may be the only and effective treatment. In other cases, pharmacological and, if necessary, interventional methods are most often used.


Is it worth getting tested?

Prevention of cardiovascular disease is, as in many other cases, one of the most effective methods of “treatment” in terms of the well-known law “prevention is better than cure.”

Adequate early recognition of a disease lb even an increased risk of developing it, allows the implementation of health-promoting measures and lifestyle changes that can result in prolonged and improved quality of life. It is often the case that timely implementation of preventive and corrective measures, allows to delay or avoid the use of drug treatment, and in the perspective of invasive procedures.


What to test?


In prevention efforts, a frequently used tool is the SCORE risk scale, which is an internationally recognized tool that allows the occurrence of life-threatening incidents of cardiovascular events over the next 10 years, based on non-modifiable factors such as gender or age and modifiable factors, such as cholesterol levels, complete lipidogram, smoking or blood pressure.

The lipid profile, blood pressure blood, glucose levels, as well as uric acid, which are components of the metabolic syndrome, which is a prelude to cardiovascular disease.

Such tests are among the quick and minimally invasive procedures, based on drawing venous blood or even examining a drop of blood, and the these few minutes spent, can result in many years of healthy and happy life!




Maćkowska-Kędziora, Agnieszka, et al. “Changes in trends of global dietary guidelines in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases cardiovascular diseases.” Forum of Metabolic Disorders. Vol. 5. No. 3.2014.