Taking steps to prevent cardiovascular disease is an important way to keep a healthy heart.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease (also known as CVD) refers to a range of conditions where blood flow is reduced, including stroke (reduced blood to the brain), coronary heart disease (reduced blood to the heart muscle, which can lead to a heart attack) and peripheral arterial disease (reduced blood to the legs; also known as peripheral vascular disease).
Reduced blood flow is usually caused by a gradual build-up of fats, such as cholesterol, in your blood vessels which forms a plaque or ‘atheroma’; this condition is known as atherosclerosis.
Who is at risk of cardiovascular disease?
In the general population, the main risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood cholesterol and diabetes, can often result from a lack of exercise and eating a poor diet high in fat. However, these risk factors can also develop in transplant recipients as side effects of certain anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressants). As the anti-rejection drugs you have been prescribed are essential to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ, it is important to consider making some simple lifestyle changes, which can help to minimise the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
How can cardiovascular disease be prevented?
These are some of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease and what you can do to help prevent them:
High blood pressure can put stress on your blood vessels
- Cut down on the amount of salt you eat
- Reduce your stress levels and keep to a healthy weight by exercising regularly
The toxins in tobacco can damage the blood vessels in your heart
- Get advice from your GP on how to give up smoking
High blood cholesterol
High levels of fats, like cholesterol, in your blood stream can build up and block blood vessels
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat
High blood glucose levels from diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels leading to cardiovascular disease
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly
Being overweight increases your risk of developing hypertension and diabetes
- Eating a healthy balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
Kidney damage (kidney transplants only)
Poor kidney function is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Transplanted kidneys can be damaged through chronic rejection,which can occur if anti-rejection medications are not taken exactly as prescribed
- Discuss any problems you have sticking to your medication schedule with your transplant team
- Complete the BAASIS© questionnaire via the free transplant360 web app to check how well you have followed your medication schedule over the past 4 weeks. Discuss your results with your transplant team to resolve any problems
Complete the BAASIS© questionnaire via the free transplant360 web app or download here
If you have already been diagnosed with hypertension, high blood cholesterol or diabetes, it is important that you take any medications you have been prescribed to manage these conditions as well as following any lifestyle advice you have been given.