What is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is not a single condition, but a general term used to describe conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels.

Examples of CVD include:

  • coronary heart disease, which describes a number of conditions caused by atherosclerosis of the arteries to the heart
  • stroke, which is when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off
  • heart failure, which is when the pumping action of the heart is impaired, and therefore its ability to supply blood to other parts of the body is less efficient, particularly on exertion
  • peripheral arterial disease, which causes problems with the blood supply to your legs and arms

How common is CVD?

In the UK, over 1.6 million men and over one million women are affected by chronic heart disease.

It is responsible for more than 88,000 deaths in the UK each year (an average of 224 people each day or one death every six minutes).

Most deaths from heart disease are caused by heart attacks . In the UK, there are about 124,000 heart attacks each year.

There are also around 152,000 strokes in the UK each year, resulting in over 43,000 deaths.

Am I at risk of CVD?

Many factors can increase your risk of CVD. These include:

Your risk of CVD also increases as you get older.

Some ethnic groups have a higher risk of heart disease, such as South Asian people living in the UK. You can find more information about South Asian health in our Live Well section.

Preventing CVD

You can help to prevent CVD by living a healthy lifestyle, for example:

If you have diabetes, controlling your blood glucose level will also help to reduce your risk of CVD.

Read the answers to questions about exercise.

Further information:

Cardiac risk assessment

Find out how a cardiovascular risk assessment can detect whether you're at risk of heart disease.

Media last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

Page last reviewed: 17/03/2014

Next review due: 16/03/2016