Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is actually a group of disorders that affect the heart (“cardio”) and the blood vessel system (“vascular”) of the human body. These disorders can be broken down into four main areas: Vascular, Electrical, Valvular, and Muscular. According to the World Health Organization, collectively these disorders are the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming an estimated 17 million lives in 2004.

Simple Definitions:
Cholesterol – Waxy, fat-like substance that is found naturally in the cells of your body. Excess amounts ingested in food can lead to cardiovascular diseases.

Plaque – Build-up of cholesterol, fats, calcium, and other substances in the arteries, which can lead to Atherosclerosis

Hypertension – Also called High Blood Pressure. Hypertension occurs when the force of blood pumping through the arteries is too strong and causes damage to the arteries

Angina – Chest pain caused by lack of oxygen in the heart muscle

Aneurysm – A bulge in the wall of an artery, which can burst and cause internal bleeding

Heart Attack – Myocardial Infarction, or heart attack, is caused when the blood flow to the heart is blocked

Stroke – Caused when the blood flow to the brain is blocked

Vascular Disorders: Related to the Vascular (Arteries and Veins) System
Atherosclerosis Atherosclerosis is the build-up of plaque and the hardening of the arteries, which is the root cause of several of these vascular disorders, including heart attack and stroke. Some risk factors can be controlled.

Coronary Artery Disease (Heart Attacks) CAD, the most common cardiovascular disorder, occurs when there is blockage, damage or disease affecting the major blood vessels supplying the heart with oxygen and nutrients. Unhealthy lifestyle is the largest contributor to this disorder, and heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) are the most common result. CAD is often referred to as Ischemic Heart Disease, Coronary Heart Disease or just Heart Disease.

Cerebrovascular Disease (Strokes) A stroke occurs when there is damage or disease affecting the major blood vessels supplying the brain with oxygen and nutrients. Unhealthy lifestyle is the largest contributor to strokes.

Peripheral Arterial Disease This form of heart disease occurs when plaque blocks the blood vessels that carry blood to the organs and limbs. In severe cases, gangrene infections may occur from lack of proper blood flow.

Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism Blood clots in the large veins of the body (especially the legs) can dislodge and travel through the blood stream where they can cause clots in smaller blood vessels.

Electrical Disorders: Related to the Rhythm of the Heartbeat
Arrhythmia This is an abnormal rhythm of the heart, sometimes requiring a pacemaker to regulate the heartbeat. Tachycardia is when the heart beats too fast, at more than 100 beats/minute. Bradycardia is when the heart beats too slow, at less than 60 beats/minute.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular fluctuation and is the most common arrhythmia.

Valvular Disorders: Related to the Valve System within the Heart
Heart Value Disorders Common issues with the heart values include:
Stenosis- the heart valves do not open enough to allow proper blood flow
Regurgitation- the heart valves fail to close properly which causes a leak in the blood flow

Rheumatic Heart Disease This form of heart disease is caused by rheumatic fever which leaves the heart muscle and valves damaged.

Muscular Disorders: Related to the Muscular Structure of the Heart
Congenital Heart Defect This disorder refers to any abnormality of the actual heart structure that is present at birth. These defects are due to the improper development of the heart structure during gestation.

Congestive Heart Failure Heart failure simply means that the heart is still pumping, but it is not pumping efficiently enough to supply the body with the appropriate levels of oxygen and nutrients.

Cardiomyopathy Cardiomyopathy refers to several diseases of the heart muscle, where the muscle becomes abnormally thick, enlarged or stiff, causing the heart to be weaker.

For more detailed information about cardiovascular disease, please visit any of the following sources:
World Health Organization
World Heart Federation
American Heart Association
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Arrhythmia Alliance