It may sound like a single disease, but cardiovascular disease is actually a group of over 60 disorders of the heart or blood vessel system (arteries, capillaries, and veins) within a person's entire body. High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke are the most common forms. Depending on the specific condition, cardiovascular disease treatment may involve medication, lifestyle changes, or special procedures.
What Is Cardiovascular Disease?Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to diseases that affect the heart or the blood vessel system within a person's entire body. It is not one single disease or condition. Rather, it is a group of over 60 different disorders.
Over 70 million Americans (almost one-fourth of the population) have some form of cardiovascular disease, with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke being the most common forms. Cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly 40 percent of deaths each year. Coronary artery disease and stroke are the first and third most common causes of death in the United States, respectively.
The Cardiovascular System and Cardiovascular DiseaseThe heart is a strong, muscular pump that is slightly larger than your fist. It pumps blood continuously through the circulatory system, the network of elastic tubes that allows blood to flow throughout the body. This system includes the heart and also the blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins). Arteries and capillaries carry oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart and lungs to all parts of the body. Veins carry blood that has been depleted of oxygen and nutrients back to the heart and lungs.
Heart and blood vessel problems do not happen quickly. Over time, the arteries that bring blood to the heart and brain can become blocked due to a buildup of cells, fat, and cholesterol. This buildup is called plaque. Reduced blood flow to the heart (due to blockages in the arteries) causes heart attacks. Lack of blood flow to the brain from a blood clot, or bleeding in the brain from a broken blood vessel, causes a stroke.