The term "cardiovascular diseases" refers to diseases that affect the heart and the blood vessels. It includes conditions such as heart attack and stroke that pose a serious and immediate risk of death, as well as many chronic conditions. Each year more that 900,000 people die from cardiovascular disease. More than 61 million Americans " nearly 1 in 4 " has one or more types of heart and blood vessel disorders, including high blood pressure (hypertension), congenital cardiovascular defects, coronary heart diseases that develop during life .
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if all forms of major cardiovascular diseases were eliminated, life expectancy would rise seven years. .
Coronary heart disease " disease of the blood vessels that feed the heart " is a major cause of premature death, and more than 6 million people in the United States live with the painful, debilitating condition known as angina pectoris, caused by inadequate blood flow to the heart. .
Some of the factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease " poor diet, lack of exercise, cigarette smoking " can be changed for the better. But other risk factors " for example, family history of heart disease, injuries, and diseases such as type I diabetes " are not always in our control.
Arteriosclerosis is a general term for several diseases in which the wall of an artery becomes thicker and less elastic. The most important and most common of these diseases is atherosclerosis, in which fatty material accumulates under the inner lining of the arterial wall.
Atherosclerosis can affect the arteries of the brain, heart, kidneys, other vital organs, and the arms and legs. When atherosclerosis develops in the arteries that supply the brain (carotid arteries), a stroke may occur; when it develops in the arteries that supply the heart (coronary arteries), a heart attack may occur.