Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes all the diseases of the heart and circulation including coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease and stroke.

It's also known as heart and circulatory disease.

Other types of cardiovascular disease include heart valve disease and cardiomyopathy.

How are cardiovascular diseases linked?

Coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack) and stroke may be caused by the same problem – atherosclerosis. This is when your arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material (called atheroma) within their walls.

Illustration showing how atheroma builds up in the artery and restricts blood flow

In time, your arteries may become so narrow that they cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart. This can cause angina – a pain or discomfort in your chest.

If a piece of the atheroma in your arteries breaks away it may cause a blood clot to form. If the blood clot blocks your coronary artery and cuts off the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, your heart muscle may become permanently damaged.This is known as a heart attack.

When a blood clot blocks an artery that carries blood to your brain, it can cut off the blood supply to part of your brain. This is called a stroke.

Atherosclerosis - your quick guideAtherosclerosis - your quick guide

Atherosclerosis is the condition that causes most heart attacks and strokes. This short illustrated leaflet explains what atherosclerosis is, how it can affect you and what you can do about it. It's useful for anyone who has been diagnosed with coronary heart disease - including angina - or who has a risk factor for developing the condition, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

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What increases my risk of cardiovascular disease?

A risk factor is something that that increases your likelihood of getting a disease. There are several risk factors for CVD,including:

How you deal with stress, the amount of alcohol you drink, as well as the type of job you do may also influence your risk of developing CVD.

The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing CVD. And even though you can’t change all your risk factors, there is plenty you can do to reduce your risk and help to protect your heart.

Researching cardiovascular disease

Your money helps us fund hundreds of top scientists all over the UK, including the work of Professor John Danesh, head of a 350 strong team who are working together to study cardiovascular disease in people around the world, advancing our understanding of how nature and nurture work together in causing heart disease and strokes.

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