Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart and circulatory disease, covers all diseases that affect the heart and circulation. This includes conditions such as coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack) and stroke.
What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease is caused by a gradual build up of fatty deposits in the walls of your coronary arteries, which can then cause them to narrow. The medical term for this condition is atherosclerosis and the fatty material is known as atheroma.
Over time, the artery may become so narrow that it can’t deliver enough oxygen to your heart, especially when you’re exerting yourself. This can lead to angina – a pain or discomfort in your chest.
If a piece of this fatty material breaks away from the artery wall it can cause a clot to form, which will then starve your heart of blood and oxygen. This is known as a heart attack.
If you suspect that you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 999 immediately.
What causes cardiovascular disease?
The following things can increase your risk:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight or obese
- A family history of heart disease
- Age – as you get older, your risk increases
- Ethnic group – some ethnic groups have a higher risk of heart disease. For example, South Asian people living in the UK have a higher risk than the rest of the UK population.
What can I do if I am worried about developing cardiovascular disease?
You should visit your GP or practice nurse who can assess your risk by carrying out a health check.
Your GP or practice nurse will want to:
- talk to you about your lifestyle
- take your weight, height and waist measurements
- take your blood pressure
- have your blood tested for cholesterol
- ask questions about your family history.
After your check, your GP or practice nurse may give advice to help you make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of heart disease.
How can I help prevent heart disease?
Making small changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you already have the condition the following can help to keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of future problems:
- Stopping smoking
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Reducing your cholesterol level
- Being physically active
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling your blood glucose if you have diabetes
Can cardiovascular disease be treated?