What is cardiovascular disease?

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is an umbrella term that describes all diseases that relate to the heart and circulation. This term includes everything from conditions that are diagnosed at birth, or inherited, to conditions that develop over time. Some of the conditions that come under the CVD umbrella are coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and vascular dementia.

According to the WHO, CVD is the number 1 cause of death globally, with an estimated 17.7 million people having died from CVD conditions in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths.

It is estimated that 50 to 80% of CVD cases are caused by risk factors that can be modified, such as, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption and physical inactivity, and therefore could be prevented from occurring.

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  • Cardiovascular (heart and circulatory) disease causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the UK; that’s over 150,000 deaths each year – an average of 420 people each day or one death every three minutes.
  • Around 42,000 people under the age of 75 in the UK die from CVD each year.
  • In 1961, more than half of all deaths in the UK were attributed to CVD (320,000 CVD deaths).
  • Since 1961 the UK death rate from CVD has declined by more than three quarters. Death rates have fallen more quickly than the actual number of deaths because people in this country are now living longer lives.
  • There are around 7 million people living with cardiovascular disease in the UK: 3.5 million men and 3.5 million women.
  • An ageing and growing population and improved survival rates from cardiovascular events could see these numbers rise still further.

CVD is a family of diseases often caused by atherosclerosis – the furring or stiffening of artery walls. Atherosclerosis particularly results in coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral arterial disease.

In England, the NHS Health Check provides a cornerstone for the prevention of 7 of the top 8 risk factors for early death and disability identified in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study.

CVD is one of the conditions most strongly associated with health inequalities and premature deaths from CVD in the most deprived 10% of the population are almost twice as high as rates in the least deprived 10%. Risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity and obesity are more common in lower socio-economic groups and the burden of cardiovascular ill health and premature death is disproportionately high among the most deprived.

Whilst age, gender, family history and ethnicity are non-modifiable risk factors of CVD, these conditions often share common physiological and behavioural risk factors that can be modified including smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption and physical inactivity.

We also know there are wider factors such as having a mental health diagnosis or being diagnosed with diabetes that can increase the risk of CVD.