Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.
It's 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. Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death, but it can often largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.
The exact cause of Cardiovascular disease isn't clear, but there are lots of things that can increase your risk of getting it. These are called "risk factors". The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing Cardiovascular disease. The main risk factors for Cardiovascular disease are outlined below.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most important risk factors for Cardiovascular disease. If your blood pressure is too high, it can damage your blood vessels.
Read more about high blood pressure.
Smoking and other tobacco use is also a significant risk factor for Cardiovascular disease. The harmful substances in tobacco can damage and narrow your blood vessels.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. If you have high cholesterol, it can cause your blood vessels to narrow and increase your risk of developing a blood clot.
Read more about high cholesterol.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes your blood sugar level to become too high. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels, making them more likely to become narrowed. Many people with type 2 diabetes are also overweight or obese, which is also a risk factor for Cardiovascular disease.
If you don't exercise regularly, it's more likely that you'll have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and be overweight. All of these are risk factors for Cardiovascular disease.
Exercising regularly will help keep your heart healthy. When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for CVD.
You're at an increased risk of CVD if:
If you have a family history of Cardiovascular disease, your risk of developing it is also increased.
You're considered to have a family history of Cardiovascular disease if either:
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have a family history of Cardiovascular disease. They may suggest checking your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
Cardiovascular disease is more common in people of south Asian and an African or Caribbean background.
This is because people from these backgrounds are more likely to have other risk factors for Cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
Other factors that affect your risk of developing Cardiovascular disease include:
You will have to urinate more often at night. You will be out of breath faster if you exercise. You may feel short of breath when you lie down or exercise.
Part of this check involves assessing your individual Cardiovascular disease risk and advising you how to reduce it if necessary.