The first cause of death in Western countries are cardiovascular disease. Every year in Italy 240 thousand people (about 110,000 men and 130,000 women) are victims of cardiovascular diseases . Cardiovascular disease is mainly a consequence of ‘ atherosclerosis , which affects the walls of the arteries , causing a narrowing (stenosis) until the occlusion, in more serious cases. The stenosis may impede the flow of blood (and hence oxygen and nutrients) to the organs, especially in conditions where it is required an increase of the flow (such as, for example, to the heart in the case of physical effort). They, also, may suddenly become complicated and often unpredictably, with the formation of thrombi which rapidly occlude the vessel, causing the complete interruption of blood flow which, if prolonged, because the ‘ heart attack , that is, the death of cells.

Atherosclerosis and its complications are caused by multiple mechanisms. There are a number of factors, known cardiovascular risk factors , and not so much individual causes that determine the development and complications, increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The cardiovascular risk factors can be divided into modifiable and non-modifiable. The non-modifiable risk factors , or those on which no action can be taken, include age, male gender, and family history of cardiovascular disease. Among the typical modifiable risk factors , of which it is possible to intervene, we find the increased levels of blood cholesterol, increased blood pressure (hypertension), physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity, cigarette smoking, increased blood levels of triglycerides.

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Eliminating or trying to drastically reduce these factors, ideally from pediatric already, it runs the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and is the main objective of the prevention of cardiovascular disease . They become so fundamental a lifestyle that includes eating healthy with careful fruit, vegetables and fish; quit smoking (the risk of heart attack is doubled with two cigarettes per day), regular physical activity, even moderate (at least half an ‘Now, 5 times a week), and weight maintenance within the optimal range (body mass index, or the ratio of weight in kilograms and height in m2 square, not above 25).

In several cases, however, some risk factors such as hypercholesterolemia , hypertension and diabetes , it is necessary to use nutritional supplements for controlling cholesterol and triglycerides and, in severe cases, to drug treatments. In healthy subjects, a value of blood LDL cholesterol less than 160 mg / dL is considered optimal. In case of presence of other risk factors, the values ​​of total and LDL cholesterol should be kept as low (below 130 mg / dL), and even lower (below 100 mg / dL) for diabetics or in cases where has already occurred a heart attack or stroke before. As for the blood pressure, are considered optimal values ​​below 130/85 mmHg. About 90% of cardiovascular disease is explained by traditional risk factors. Nevertheless, in at least 10% of the cases that go on to have heart attack or stroke, it is not possible to find any classic risk factor.

Cardiovascular disease is extremely common and cause many deaths, but also a reduction in the quality of life of sufferers in a non-lethal. Prevention, however, you can at least in part by adopting some measures of behavioral (quit smoking, change eating habits, physical activity) and type of treatment (reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes control). Prevention is without a doubt the best strategy to be followed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease!