The cardiovascular system is made up blood, a vast network of blood vessels and the heart, which is responsible for pumping the blood throughout the vessels. The purpose of the cardiovascular system is to deliver nutrients, such as oxygen, to each part of the body for use in metabolic processes. It also clears waste products and moves them to organs that either break them down or excrete them. The cardiovascular system plays a role in protecting us from foreign harmful substances in immune function. It's a complex system, and there are many disorders that can arise, causing failure.
Coronary Artery Disease
Atherosclerosis is an increasingly common disease that is marked by fatty buildup of plaque within the walls of arteries. As the plaque buildup increases, blood vessels can become occluded, shutting down the blood supply to an area of the body. When atherosclerosis happens in the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle itself, a heart attack can result, and the heart may be severely damaged. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, not smoking and reducing stress all decrease your chance of developing coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis in any blood vessel.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies a portion of the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts. Either causes a lack of oxygen to the brain, which quickly dies or is damaged. Stroke is the third leading killer of Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Signs of a stroke include a very intense new headache, dizziness, slurred speech and loss of motor function. Immediate treatment is critical to recovery from a stroke. Strokes are treated by clot-busting medications if the problem is a clot or with surgery if the problem is a damaged blood vessel.
High Blood Pressure
As the heart pumps blood through the arteries, it creates a pressure that can be measured. High blood pressure often occurs when the arteries become clogged or less flexible, but it can also be caused by many different factors such as obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders as well as by many medications. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, and according to the American Heart Association, it is the single greatest factor leading to stroke.
Arrhythmia is a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly or skip a beat. Most arrhythmias are not dangerous, but some are very serious and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, a form of heart attack. These serious forms require constant medical management.
A congenital heart defect is a problem that occurs in the development of the cardiovascular system and is present at birth. There are a wide variety of conditions that fall into this category. Many have to do with how the heart is formed, but some defects affect the blood vessels leading into or away from the heart. Many congenital defects can be surgically repaired after birth.
Peripheral Artery Disease
When atherosclerosis occurs in the arteries of the arms or legs, it is referred to as peripheral artery disease. This is essentially the same process as coronary artery disease where fatty plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries and causes poor blood flow to the extremities. This causes pain, especially with exercise, in the arms or legs. Peripheral artery disease is common for those who have risk factors such as diabetes or for smokers and, if left untreated, can lead to gangrene and amputation.