Cause of death number one in German
Taken in the broadest sense, cardiovascular disorders include all diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. The spectrum ranges from high blood pressure and atherosclerosis to cardiac arrhythmias, heart disease and heart attacks. Elderly people are particularly affected but the number of sufferers under the age of 50 is rising. Cardiovascular disorders are the most common cause of death in Germany.
Atherosclerosis and high blood pressure as a lurking danger
Around 30 to 40 percent of adults in Germany have high blood pressure. The percentage increases with age. From 60 upwards every second person is affected. It can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, kidney failure, stroke or a heart attack - often with fatal consequences.
High blood pressure, combined with other risk factors such as diabetes or disorders of lipid metabolism, hastens the onset of atherosclerosis. In the course of vascular disease, commonly known as "hardening of the arteries", cholesterol and other fats together with plaques of calcification are deposited on the inner walls of the arteries. The vessels narrow so that the blood can no longer flow freely through them.
Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries is termed coronary heart disease. In Germany alone, around 1.5 million people are affected. In this very common form of heart disease, insufficient oxygenated blood reaches the heart muscle when plaque deposits cause narrowing of the necessary coronary arteries. If a blood clot forms in a constricted coronary vessel, this can cause a heart attack.
Lack of exercise, obesity, and social and mental stress all contribute
The causes of cardiovascular disorders are wide ranging. Besides genetic predisposition and natural ageing, the main ones are diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking. However, being overweight and under stress also appear to play a role. Many of the risk factors can be counteracted. Steps to take include a low-fat diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, restricted alcohol, no nicotine, sufficient exercise and a healthy work-life balance.
A broad spectrum of treatment options ranging from healthy lifestyle changes to surgical intervention
The diversity of cardiovascular disorders is reflected in the wide range of treatments for them. Besides maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking medication, there are various surgical options for treating particular forms of heart disease. For example, there are the bypass procedures in which a new conduit is grafted between the beginning and the end of a narrowed coronary vessel.