What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries – known as atherosclerosis – and an increased risk of blood clots. It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.
The three main conditions are:
coronary heart disease (which can cause angina or heart attack)
peripheral arterial disease (also known as peripheral vascular disease)
CVD is usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.
It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.
Symptoms of CVD
Symptoms of heart disease vary based on what condition you have and can include:
- chest pain
- pain, weakness or numb legs and/or arms
- very fast or slow heartbeat, or palpitations
- feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
- swollen limbs.
Causes of CVD
The exact cause of CVD isn't clear, but there are many things that can increase your risk of developing CVD. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances are of developing CVD.
Most cardiovascular disease is caused by risk factors that can be changed, treated or controlled – things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, smoking, not enough exercise and diabetes.
But some risk factors can’t be changed – advancing age, for example, brings with it more risk. Gender also influences CVD risk. Men are generally more at risk, as are women after menopause. And if you have a family history of CVD, where a close blood relative (mother, father, sister or brother) had CVD or stroke before the age of 55 years (for men) or 65 years (for women), this also increases the risk.
How to prevent CVD
There are many things you can do to reduce your chances of developing CVD including:
- lowering your blood pressure
- lowering your cholesterol levels
- leading a healthy lifestyle