Cardiovascular disease

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of disorders that affect the heart and the blood vessels. It is associated with the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, which is known as atherosclerosis. It often involves hypertension, which can be both a cause and result of CVD. The disorder is one of the main causes of death in the UK yet can often be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.

What are the different types of cardiovascular diseases?

The four main types of cardiovascular disease are:

  • Coronary heart disease – occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. It can lead to angina, heart attacks or heart failure.
  • Strokes and TIAs – the blood supply of the brain is cut off during a stroke. A transient ischaemic attack is similar but the blood flow to the brain is only temporary.
  • Peripheral arterial disease – occurs when there is a blockage in the arteries to the limbs, such as the legs.
  • Aortic diseases – these are a group of conditions affecting the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The commonest type is an aortic aneurysm.

What are the causes of cardiovascular disease?

There are many things are risk factors and increase the chance of a person developing CVD. These include:

  • Hypertension – if the blood pressure is too high it can damage the blood vessels
  • Smoking – the harmful tobacco substances can narrow the blood vessels.
  • High cholesterol – the fatty substance in the blood can increase the chance of developing a blood clot.
  • Diabetes – high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels.
  • Lack of regular exercise – staying active helps promote good heart health.
  • Obesity – being overweight or obese increases the chance of developing diabetes and hypertension, which are both risk factors for CVD.
  • Family history – having a family history of the disease means that the risk of developing CVD is increased.


Other risk factors for cardiovascular disease

The other factors that can affect the development of CVD are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Poor diet
  • Alcohol

How to prevent cardiovascular disease

Living a healthy lifestyle can prevent and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. This means:

  • Stop smoking
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Medication