The cause of most cardiovascular disease is a build-up of atheroma – a fatty deposit within the inside lining of arteries. There are lifestyle factors that can be taken to reduce the risk of forming atheroma. These include not smoking; choosing healthy foods; a low salt intake; regular physical activity; keeping your weight and waist size down; drinking alcohol in moderation.
Your blood pressure and cholesterol level are also important. All people aged over 40 should have a cardiovascular health risk assessment – usually available at your GP surgery. If you have a high risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, treatment to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or cholesterol may be advised.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular diseases are diseases of the heart (cardiac muscle) or blood vessels (vasculature). However, in practice, when doctors use the term cardiovascular disease they usually mean diseases of the heart or blood vessels that are caused by atheroma.
The rest of this leaflet briefly discusses atheroma, the diseases atheroma can cause, and ways of preventing a build-up of atheroma and preventing the diseases it causes.