Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels leading to heart attack, stroke and many other problems. It is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Heart disease is the most common kind of CVD and happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is reduced or blocked. This can cause angina (chest pain) and heart attack. It can also cause heart failure which is when the heart cannot adequately pump blood around the body
Stroke is another common type of CVD. Unlike heart disease where the blood supply to the heart is obstructed, in stroke, the blood supply to the brain is blocked or reduced. The result is the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die within minutes.
If the blockage or narrowing of the blood supply to peripheral parts of the body such as the legs happens, then this is called peripheral arterial disease. This can cause a dull cramping pain in the legs which gets worse with walking, muscle weakness, a feeling of numbness and coldness in the legs, and non-healing ulcers on the feet and legs.
Arrhythmias, rheumatic heart disease, high blood pressure, congenital heart disease and deep vein thrombosis are other examples of CVD.
There are many causes of CVD, but the most common one related to heart attacks, stroke and peripheral artery disease is explained by a build-up of fatty deposits (called plaque) in the arteries. The presence of these deposits is called atherosclerosis. It can put a person at major risk of blood clots. High blood pressure, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and many other factors put a person at a higher risk of CVD.