Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in many regions worldwide. The two most frequent forms of CVD are coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke (also termed cerebrovascular disease). Other common types of CVD include congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and diseases of the arteries.
The elderly carry a higher risk of CVD-induced death compared with the rest of the population. Most CVDs in children are due to congenital cardiovascular malformations, an increasing number of children are developing risk factors including high blood pressure, smoking, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, overweight, and the metabolic syndrome.
Types of cardiovascular diseases
Aneurysm: An aneurysm (or aneurism) is a localized, blood-filled dilation (balloon-like bulge) of a blood vessel caused by disease or weakening of the vessel wall. Aneurysms most commonly occur in arteries at the base of the brain (the circle of Willis) and in the aorta (the main artery coming out of the heart, a so-called aortic aneurysm). As the size of an aneurysm increases, there is an increased risk of rupture, which can result in severe hemorrhage or other complications including sudden death.
Angina: Angina pectoris, commonly known as angina, is severe chest pain due to ischemia of the heart muscle, generally due to obstruction or spasm of the coronary arteries (the heart’s blood vessels). Coronary artery disease, the main cause of angina, is due to atherosclerosis of the cardiac arteries.
Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a disease affecting arterial blood vessels. It is a chronic inflammatory response in the walls of arteries, in large part due to the accumulation of macrophage white blood cells and promoted by low density (especially small particle) lipoproteins (plasma proteins that carry cholesterol and triglycerides) without adequate removal of fats and cholesterol from the macrophages by functional high density lipoproteins (HDL). It is commonly referred to as a “hardening” or “furring” of the arteries. It is caused by the formation of multiple plaques within the arteries.
Cerebrovascular disease: Cerebrovascular disease is a group of brain dysfunctions related to disease of blood vessels supplying the brain. Hypertension is the most important cause that damages the blood vessel lining endothelium exposing the underlying collagen where platelets aggregate to initiate a repairing process which is not always complete and perfect. Sustained hypertension permanently changes the architecture of the blood vessels making them narrow, stiff, deformed and uneven which are more vulnerable to fluctuations of blood pressure.
Congestive Heart Failure: Condition resulting from weakness of the heart muscle, in which the heart cannot pump out all of the blood that enters it. This results in an accumulation of blood in the vessels leading to the heart and fluid in various parts of the body such as the lungs, legs, and abdomen tissues.
Coronary Artery Disease: Coronary heart disease involves a reduction in the blood supply to the heart muscle by narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries (atherosclerosis). In time, inadequate supply of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients damages the heart muscle and can lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack) and angina pectoris (chest pain).
Myocardial infarction (Heart Attack): Myocardial infarction (MI or AMI for acute myocardial infarction), commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart is interrupted. This is most commonly due to occlusion (blockage) of a coronary artery following the rupture of a vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, which is an unstable collection of lipids (like cholesterol) and white blood cells (especially macrophages) in the wall of an artery. The resulting ischemia (restriction in blood supply) and oxygen shortage, if left untreated for a sufficient period, can cause damage and/or death (infarction) of heart muscle tissue (myocardium).
Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke): A stroke is the rapidly developing loss of brain functions due to a disturbance in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood supply) caused by thrombosis or embolism or due to a hemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain is unable to function, leading to inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech or inability to see one side of the visual field. In the past, stroke was referred to as cerebrovascular accident or CVA, but the term “stroke” is now preferred.