Definition of cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include:

  • coronary heart disease: disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle;
  • cerebrovascular disease: disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain;
  • peripheral arterial disease: disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs;
  • rheumatic heart disease: damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria;
  • congenital heart disease: malformations of heart structure existing at birth;
  • deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism: blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.

Heart attacks and strokes are usually acute events and are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The most common reason is a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels. Strokes can be caused by bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain or by blood clots.