Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is an umbrella term for a set of health issues that affect the heart and/or blood vessels. CVD is often related to restrictions in the flow of blood around the body, such as blood clots or fatty deposits in the veins and arteries.
Types of cardiovascular disease
British Heart Foundation statistics indicate that around seven million people in the UK are living with one of the types of cardiovascular disease.
So, what is a cardiovascular disease? Here are the four most common kinds, according to the NHS:
Coronary heart disease
Peripheral arterial disease
What is cardiovascular disease caused by?
You might be wondering what cardiovascular disease is caused by, but the truth is that a number of different things can affect the heart and blood vessels, so a single cause isn’t possible to pinpoint. Medical professionals tend to think more in terms of risk factors – things that can contribute towards someone’s chances of developing CVD.
Cardiovascular disease risk factors can be split into two categories: those that can be changed, and those we’re born with.
Here’s a list of modifiable cardiovascular disease risk factors:
Raised blood pressure : Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure at which blood is being pumped through your body. If your blood pressure is above the recommended limit, it indicates undue stress on your heart*. Find out more about blood pressure here .
Smoking : Smoking in any form – cigarettes, cigars, shisha – is considered a CVD risk factor. It may be tough to give up at first, but there are real benefits to quitting, and plenty of help is available. Check out the NHS SmokeFree pages to take the first step.
Elevated cholesterol : Cholesterol is a fatty substance created by the body – and consumed through the diet – that has a number of helpful functions. However, too much of the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol in the bloodstream can increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Check out our range of products created to help lower cholesterol here **.
A sedentary lifestyle : Exercise is a key way we can help maintain heart health, so it’s important to get the recommended minimum amount: 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days a week. Find helpful exercise guides and workout routines here .
Being overweight : Carrying extra weight can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. To find out what a healthy BMI is and get tips on achieving your goals read our guide here .
Diabetes : Diabetes is when the body has too much glucose in the blood. This is caused by an inability to produce insulin (or enough insulin) in the pancreas, or happens when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. Diabetes UK have great resources on managing the condition, including taking care of your heart .
And here are the risk factors that aren’t necessarily modifiable:
- Family history : Those of us whose close relatives have developed cardiovascular disease may be genetically more disposed to getting it in the future. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about whether this could apply to you.
- Ethnic background : People from African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds are at a higher risk of CVD than those of other ethnicities. The British Heart Foundation has some useful resources on this here .
Other things that can affect cardiovascular health include:
- Age – as we age, we’re more likely to develop CVD
- Gender – men are more likely to have it at a younger age, but after the menopause the risk for women becomes similar. The potential for stroke remains the same for both men and women.
- Diet – this can affect the risk factors above, including weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
If any of the above risk factors apply to you, don’t be afraid to reach out to a healthcare professional – they’ll be able to provide further information and advice to help you.
These are just the basics: what are cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors. For more information, check out our article on how to have a healthy heart for handy tips on heart health maintenance. And for advice and information on a heart-friendly lifestyle delivered straight to your inbox each month, sign up to our e-newsletter here.