Cardiovascular Disease Vs Physical Appearance.

Cardiovascular diseases refer to a class of diseases that affect the heart in a way that renders it incapable of doing its job effectively which is in a nutshell, perfusing the entire body with blood and with it the nutrients, oxygen and hormones needed. When I say the entire body, I mean every last corner of your body, your toe nails, your intestines, every drop of blood that circulates the body is pumped by the heart and is further aided along the way to all those body parts using secondary means like veins, arteries, capillaries. This entire network makes up your cardiovascular system. Therefore when anything hinders the heart, the arteries, veins and capillaries from best doing this important job, it’s referred to medically as cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease therefore includes hypertension(high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure, angina pectoris to mention but a few. Each of these have signs, symptoms and causes particular to them but the common factor across is the deposition of excess fat(cholesterol) in the blood stream that subsequently forms plaques in arteries (vessels that carry blood from the body back to the heart), a process known as atherosclerosis. In time the plaque hardens and constricts the arteries thus restricting the blood flow to the heart. To cut the long story short the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively is compromised with and the heart, which is a muscle, is gradually strained and weakened. Depending on what other arteries are affected, other issues like stroke, kidney disease can also occur. The risk factors for this happening include smoking, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes (insulin resistance), obesity, lack of physical activity, older age, genetics etc. Which brings me to the point of physical appearance. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone is obese and is therefore at risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact studies show that men with a waistline circumference of above 40 inches and women’s 35 inches, are at a risk of developing cardiovascular disease because more often than not, the large waistline is an indicator of how much visceral fat is around your organs. But what if a person does not fit the typical appearance, what if a person is relatively young, certainly not overweight; does it mean there is no chance of having a cardiovascular disease? The answer is no. One maybe all these things but still be at risk and the only way to know is being vigilant enough to check and be sure. Take it upon yourself to do the necessary tests to makes sure your cardiovascular health is at its best. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t pay attention to what you eat and says things like, ‘I eat anything and everything but never gain weight’, a person who has low levels of physical activity because you think that that sort of endeavor is only undertaken by people who are overweight, if you are or used to be a serial smoker, if you are getting older, be on the safe side and check out your cardiovascular health.

You can do this by doing checking your blood pressure levels at rest or after an activity, heart rate, blood tests that include lipid profile tests where your levels of cholesterol, high density and low density lipid cholesterol and triglycerides are checked and then explained to you. Other blood tests you can do include the fasting and normal blood sugars, kidney and liver function tests. All the above will give you a better picture of your physical state and health other than relying on only appearance.

Finally, whether or not you can afford the above tests should not stop you from being vigilant in keeping your cardiovascular health top notch. As any person hitting the ages above 30, watch out for your physical health by learning to eat healthy and not just eating anything in sight, gauge your level of activity and if it is nonexistent, then include it in your daily schedule and educate yourself further on how to keep physically healthy regardless of whether or not your appearance fits the ‘profile’ of a person at risk of suffering cardiovascular disease.

Atamba Lakeli

Nursing officer

Fitness Trainer & Nutritionist.