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What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease is also called ‘heart and circulatory disease’. It means all diseases of the heart and circulation. This includes coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack), and stroke.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease begins when coronary arteries- the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle- become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls. This condition is called atherosclerosis and the fatty material is called atheroma.

In time, the artery may become so narrow that it cannot deliver enough oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle when needs it- such as when you are doing exercise. The pain or discomfort that happens as a result is called Angina.

Sometimes, the atheroma may break off and cause a blood clot to form. If the blood clot blocks the coronary artery, the heart muscle is starved of blood and oxygen, and may become permanently damaged. This is known as a heart attack. During a heart attack, life-threatening heart rhythms may develop. This is why a heart attack is a medical emergency.