Living With Cardiovascular Disease – Introduction

More than 70 million Americans-nearly 35 percent of the U.S. population-live with some form of diagnosed cardiovascular disease (cvd). Many of them continue in the jobs and leisure activities they have always enjoyed, due in large part to advances in technology, surgery, and drugs that allow early diagnosis, prompt intervention, and successful treatment.

Others-about 10 million-find their lives entirely changed by permanent disability. Stroke alone disables nearly a million Americans each year. Some people see their cardiovascular conditions as opportunities to improve their health and quality of life, and some people see them as limitations.

Living with CVD has physical and emotional dimensions that reach into nearly every aspect of life, from work and career to relationship and family.

Physical Dimensions

About 10 million Americans live with some degree of permanent disability as a result of CVD that limits their abilities to work and participate in activities they enjoy. One in three people who has a stroke experiences residual complications ranging from memory and cognitive disturbances to paralysis.

Half of people who have heart attacks experience compromised cardiovascular function, some of which is short term and improves over time, and some of which is long term and does not get much better with time. These changes may require adaptive accommodations in the home and the workplace.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs help people recover to the best level possible, teaching new methods for managing lifestyle tasks and establishing individual recovery goals and the steps to reach them.

Emotional Dimensions

People who experience heart attack and other cardiovascular crises find themselves confronting their own mortality in ways that can be disconcerting and frightening. Some people experience renewed appreciation for life and its daily details. Some people turn to faith, either in gratitude or in anger. Some people flail about emotionally, suddenly unsure of life’s purpose.

Family members may not understand or may themselves find the close call a frightening experience. Feelings and emotions are as much a part of managing cardiovascular conditions as are medications and operations.

Medical centers and hospitals that provide cardiovascular care typically sponsor support groups where people can share their worries and fears.

Outlook

In the course of 40 years-the span of a generation-cardiovascular disease shifted from harbinger of restricted living and early death to a plethora of treatment options. For many people, living with cardiovascular disease is little different from living without cardiovascular disease.

Operations, medications, and lifestyle interventions can mitigate many forms of cardiovascular disease. With the intensified focus on preventive measures and interventions, the generation born at the turn of the 21st century could be the first that does not have the experience of living with cardiovascular disease.

See also CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE PREVENTION; LIFESTYLE AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTHRISK FACTORS FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.

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