Cardiovascular Diseases

The information here is provided by courtesy of the Network's short online course - "An Introduction to Global Health". 



Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the name for a group of disorders of the circulatory system of the blood, including the heart. They are the number one cause of death globally. (Figure 1) 


An estimated 17.8 million people died from CVDs in 2017, representing 31% of all global deaths


Figure 1





Over 80% of these deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries (a disproportionately high level). (Map 1).


Map 1





Conditions making up ‘Cardiovascular Disease’


The group of conditions that make up CVD include 

  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • coronary heart disease (heart attack)
  • cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • heart failure
  • rheumatic heart disease
  • congenital heart disease
  • cardiomyopathies.


The most significant of these across the world are coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. Heart attack and stroke make up around 85% of deaths from CVD. 


Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke


The most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke are 


  • unhealthy diet
  • physical inactivity
  • tobacco use 
  • harmful use of alcohol


The effects of behavioural risk factors may show up in individuals as 


  • raised blood pressure 
  • raised blood glucose 
  • raised blood lipids 
  • overweight and obesity. 


Figure 2 shows the relative importance of risk factors for death across the world. 


Figure 2





Interventions to reduce risk 


Measures that will reduce risk include 


  • cessation of tobacco use 
  • reduction of salt in the diet 
  • consuming fruits and vegetables 
  • regular physical activity
  • avoiding harmful use of alcohol 


In addition, drug treatment of diabetes, hypertension and high blood lipids may be necessary to reduce cardiovascular risk and prevent heart attacks and strokes. 


Health policies that create conducive environments for making healthy choices affordable and available are essential for motivating people to adopt and sustain healthy behaviour.



Further Reading 


WHO: Cardiovascular Diseases


WHO : CVDs Key Facts


WHO : Hypertension Key Facts


WHO: Salt Reduction


WHO : Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases : Guidelines for Primary Health Care in Low Resource Settings


WHO: Updates - Cardiovascular Risk Charts








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