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 – 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.
CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.
Coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked or reduced.
This puts an increased strain on the heart, and can lead to:
- angina– chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart muscle
- heart attacks – where the blood flow to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked
- heart failure – where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly
A stroke is where the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, which can cause brain damage and possibly death.
A transient ischaemic attack (also called a TIA or "mini-stroke") is similar, but the blood flow to the brain is only temporarily disrupted.
The symptoms of a stroke or TIA can be remembered with the word FAST, which stands for:
- Face – the face may have drooped on one side, the person may be unable to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
- Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or they may not be able to talk at all.
- Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.