Cardiovascular disease

Types of CVD

There are many different types of CVD. Four of the main types are described below.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood tothe 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

  • 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.
  • This is the largest blood vessel in the body, which carries blood fromthe heart to the rest ofthe body.

    One of most commonaortic diseases is an aortic aneurysm, where the aorta becomes weakened and bulges outwards. This doesn't usually have any symptoms, butthere's a chance it could burst and cause life-threatening bleeding.

    These are called "risk factors".

    The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing CVD.

    If you're over 40, you'll be invited by your GP for an NHS Health Check every five years. Part of this check involves assessing your individual CVD risk and advising you how to reduce it if necessary.

    The main risk factors for CVD are outlined below.

    High blood pressure

    High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most important risk factors for CVD. If your blood pressure is too high, it can damage your blood vessels.

    The harmful substances in tobacco can damage and narrow your blood vessels.

    High cholesterol

    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.

    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 CVD.


    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 CVD.

    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

    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:

    • your body mass index (BMI) is25 or above use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your BMI
    • you're a man with a waist measurementof94cm(about 37 inches) or more, or a woman with a waist measurementof80cm (about 31.5 inches)or more

    They may suggest checking your blood pressure and cholesterol level.

    Ethnic background

    In the UK,CVD is more common in people of South Asian and African or Caribbean background.

    This is because people from these backgrounds are more likely to have other risk factors for CVD, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

    If you already have CVD, staying as healthy as possible can reduce the chances of it getting worse.

    Ways you can reduce your CVD risk are outlined below.

    Stop smoking

    If you smoke, you should try to give up as soon as possible. The NHS Smokefree website can provide information, support and advice to help.

    Your GP can also provide you with advice and support, they can also prescribe medication to help you quit.

    Aim to get your BMI below 25.

    If you're struggling to lose weight, your GP or practice nurse can help you come up with a weight loss plan and recommend services in your area.

    If you do drink this much, you should aim to spread your drinking over three days or more.

    A unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal-strength lager or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) is about 1.5 units.

    Your GP can give you help and advice if you're finding it difficult to cut down your drinking. Get some tips on cutting down .


    If you have a particularly high risk of developing CVD, your GP may recommend taking medication to reduce your risk.

    Medications that may berecommended include statins to lower blood cholesterol levels, low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots andtablets to reduce blood pressure.

    Content supplied by the NHS Website

    Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018