What are cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are major health problems all over the world. They are a group of diseases that involve the heart and the blood vessels (arteries and veins).

If there is an interruption of blood supply due to diseases of the vessels taking blood to the heart, the heart might be seriously damaged due to lack of oxygen and nutrients to fuel its muscular contractions. Medically this damage is referred to as a heart attack. If the same type of situation happens in the brain, and lack of oxygen disrupts the normal function of the brain, this is referred to as a stroke.

Heart attacks and strokes are usually acute life-threatening events ('acute' means they start suddenly and rapidly get worse). They are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to parts of the heart or brain, which are seriously damaged by the lack of oxygen. The most common reason for the blockage is a build-up of fatty deposits (called plaques) on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart or brain. Strokes can also be caused by bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain or from blood clots blocking an artery.

Last modified: Tuesday, 15 July 2014, 6:54 PM