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A nurse assessing a patient.
Figure 24.1 Providing quality and competent nursing care includes performing a comprehensive cardiovascular and peripheral vascular assessment. (credit: modification of work “EMT/Nursing Pediatric Emergency Simulation - April 2013 18” by COD Newsroom/Flickr; CC BY 2.0)

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death among men and women of all races and ethnicities (World Health Organization [WHO], 2021). The World Health Organization (WHO) reports millions of deaths each year from cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke (WHO, 2021). Approximately one-third of all deaths occur before age 70, which is considered to be premature when compared to the average life span. Understanding the function of the cardiovascular and peripheral vascular systems, related pathologies, and the effect cardiovascular disease has on the body is important in ensuring appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Identifying risk factors early can facilitate early diagnosis and treatment and, therefore, contributes to a longer and healthier life span. Lifestyle factors (e.g., diet, physical activity, smoking) and comorbid disorders contribute significantly to the development and progression of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular diseases. To mitigate any potential cardiovascular risks, nurses must be skilled in conducting thorough assessments, recognizing risk factors, and implementing interventions specific to the patient.

Coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular diseases, arrhythmias, and peripheral vascular disease are examples of the types of cardiovascular diseases the nurse will encounter. Each of these disorders manifests in various ways, with each presenting unique challenges in diagnosing, treating, and providing ongoing care. Understanding the nuances of each disorder as well as the individual needs of the patient allows the nurse to play a pivotal role in the holistic care of the patient. Identifying the anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular and peripheral vascular systems along with recognizing dysfunction is crucial in both prevention and management. As caregivers on the front lines of health care, a comprehensive understanding of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular diseases equips nurses with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide compassionate and effective care to individuals navigating the complexities of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular health.

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