Cardiovascular Disease

Doctor drawing ecg heartbeat chart with marker on whiteboard concept for healthcare and medicine

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the cause of 1 in every 3 deaths, each year in the US.1 There are many known risk factors that contribute to CVD.

Modifiable Risk Factors2

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High Stress
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Diabetes

Non Modifiable Risk Factors2

  • Age
  • Gender (males > females)
  • Race
  • Family History

Modifiable Risk Statistics2

  • The most preventable cause of disease and death in the US is cigarette smoking.
  • Over half of all adults have high cholesterol.
  • One in three adults have high blood pressure.
  • 47 million adult Americans are overweight.
  • Ischemic heart disease is the number one cause of death, globally.

Symptoms of CVD3

  • Pain or numbness in the chest, arm, back, or jaw.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking
  • Severe headache of unknown cause or difficulty seeing.

Often, there are no warning signs before a heart attack or stroke.

Primary prevention is the least expensive and most effective form of prevention against CVD. Primary prevention addresses modifiable risk factors in order to lower an individual’s risk before the onset of CVD. In other words, this is a disease that each person can take steps towards significantly reducing their risk of developing, through appropriate diet, exercise, and behavior changes.

Your physical therapist is an expert in safe and appropriate movement and can be a great resource as you can address; weight, stress, physical inactivity, and high cholesterol and blood pressure (all modifiable risk factors) through movement!


  1. Goodman CC, Fuller KS. Pathology Implications for the Physical Therapist. 4th ed. St Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2015.
  2. Hillegass, E. Essentials of Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy ,4th Edition, St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2017.
  3. World Health Organization. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs). May 17, 2017. Accessed November 4, 2018.

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