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Cardiovascular prevention toolbox
1. What are cardiovascular illnesses?
They are silent illnesses … caused by a diseased artery, especially in the heart, brain and lower limbs: atherosclerosis (cholesterol deposited on the artery wall). The deposits grow until they form plaques which make the arteries narrower: stenosis; these plaques may become detached and block the arteries causing a heart attack, stroke and/or arteritis depending on their location.
2. Cardiovascular risk factors
There are 2 main types: risk factors that cannot be modified and modifiable risk factors.
Risk factors that cannot be modified:
Age: the older you are, the greater the risk
Gender: men are affected at an earlier age than women (10 years difference)
Heredity: if there is a family history of cardiovascular disease, the risk is greater.
Although these factors cannot be modified, developments can be anticipated by having regular check-ups if you suffer from one or more risk factors.
Modifiable risk factors:
Dyslipidemia: hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia
High blood pressure
Overweight and obesity
Inactivity and sedentary lifestyle
These factors are not simply added together, they are multiplied
3. Test your cardiovascular risk!
4. In detail, the modifiable cardiovascular risk factors are:
This is the main form in which cholesterol is transported within the organism. Its level must be kept as low as possible. However, the target value to be reached depends on the presence of other risk factors.
This is involved in the reverse transport of cholesterol enabling it to be recaptured and transported towards the routes by which it is eliminated. An increase is a protective factor and the threshold value must be at least 40 mg/100 ml.
The presence of diabetes multiplies the cardiovascular risk by three in women and by two in men. In such cases, it is essential to check the blood pressure, lipids in the blood, weight and take regular physical activity.
To calculate your risk of diabetes, click here.
High blood pressure
The risk is held to be negligible if blood pressure is below 130/85 mm Hg.
Excessive weight is assessed overall by the body mass index:
- BMI 20-25=> normal weight
- BMI 25-30=> overweight
- BMI 30-40=> obesity
- BMI >40=> morbid obesity
Above a BMI of 25 the coronary risk increases, partly however because of the impact of excessive weight on other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and dyslipidemia. The distribution of fatty substances also has a major impact on the cardiovascular risk. It is increased in particular by abdominal adiposity. A waist circumference >102 cm in men and >88 cm in women must be regarded as significant.
The risk of coronary illness in smokers is three times higher than in non-smokers. Smokers are particularly exposed to the risk of heart attack and sudden death.
To determine your dependence on nicotine, click here.
Physical exercise plays an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The more intensive training becomes, the more effective it is in terms of preventing mortality and morbidity. However, half an hour’s walk at a sustained pace every day is already enough to have a positive influence on the cardiovascular risk. This must be endurance training, i.e. aerobic in nature. An active daily life is another recommendation: walking, using the staircase, gardening, DIY activities etc. Persons above the age of forty who start systematic training must first undergo an effort test performed by a cardiologist.
The "interheart" study clearly demonstrated the link between family, professional or financial stress and heart attacks. This study revealed that the stress factor is responsible for 37% of heart attacks. In other words, its importance in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases is the same as that of tobacco, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
To assess your stress, click here.
The following recommendations concern the general nutritional factors for cardiovascular prevention:
· greatly reduce your consumption of saturated fats originating from dairy produce (butter, cream, cheese) or from meat and cold cuts
· eat fish and poultry regularly
· eat cereals, fruit and vegetables every day
· eat polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil or walnut oil, regularly
· if you suffer from high blood pressure, get your weight down, reduce alcohol consumption and salt, increase your calcium and potassium intake
To determine your dietary behaviour, click here