Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Content last reviewed: July 2017


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the collective term for a group of related conditions affecting the heart, arteries or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (accounting for about 50%) and stroke (about 25%).  It represents a huge burden to patients, the health services and the economy.  To a large part they are avoidable due to modifiable risk factors.  According to the WHO the eight key risk factors (alcohol use, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high body mass index, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity) account for as much as 61% of all cardiovascular deaths and over three quarters of all CHD: leading cause of death worldwide.

In 2016, CVD is estimated to cost the UK economy over £15 billion each year (including premature death and disability) and healthcare costs relating to CVD are estimated at up to £11 billion each year.

The Department of Health has published ‘Living Well for Longer’, 2013, which is about reducing avoidable, premature mortality caused by the big killer diseases, among which is cardiovascular disease.  ‘Premature Mortality’ is death aged less than 75 years and it is hoped that England’s premature mortality will become the lowest among our European peers.

The Longer Lives website compares premature mortality from overall and specific diseases from similar local authorities.  It shows that Central Bedfordshire is worst of 15 for premature mortality caused by heart disease and 11th out of 14 for strokes compared to similar Local Authorities (LA) for 2013-15; overall it was 39th of 150 (heart disease) and 61st of 149 (stroke) for all LAs.

CVD is an overarching term that describes a family of diseases (including stroke, heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes) sharing a common set of risk factors.

There are effective interventions that can reduce risk factors, prevalence and deaths from CVD.  In addition to medical interventions, people making healthier choices, such as stopping smoking, taking regular physical activity, eating healthier foods, using alcohol in moderation and promptly accessing services can reduce the risk and deaths from CVD.

There are variations in the prevalence of CVD across the population that demonstrate inequalities in health, for example in relation to occupational group and ethnicity.  Deaths from coronary heart disease are three times higher among unskilled men than among professionals, and around 50% higher in South Asian communities than in the general population.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the failure of coronary circulation leading to lack of blood supply to heart muscle.  CHD is most commonly linked with coronary artery disease although it can be due to other causes such as spasm of the coronary vessels.  It is caused by atherosclerosis within the walls of the arteries that supply the heart muscle resulting in angina pectoris (chest pain) and myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Last updated Tuesday, 25th July 2017