kids encyclopedia robot

Cardiovascular disease facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Cardiovascular disease
Cardiac amyloidosis very high mag movat.jpg
Micrograph of a heart with fibrosis (yellow) and amyloidosis (brown). Movat's stain.
Symptoms Chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of consciousness
Complications Heart failure, heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, peripheral artery disease, sudden cardiac arrest.
Usual onset Older adults
Types Coronary artery diseases, stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, Arrhythmia
Risk factors Diabetes, high blood lipids, Poor weight, Smoking
Prevention Healthy eating, exercise, avoiding tobacco smoke, limited alcohol intake, overall lifestyle changes
Treatment Treating high blood pressure, high blood lipids, diabetes
Medication Aspirin, beta blockers, blood thinners
Deaths 17.9 million / 32% (2015)

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. CVD includes coronary artery diseases (CAD) such as angina and myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack). Other CVDs include stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart rhythms, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, carditis, aortic aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, thromboembolic disease, and venous thrombosis.

The underlying mechanisms vary depending on the disease. It is estimated that dietary risk factors are associated with 53% of CVD deaths. Coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease involve atherosclerosis. This may be caused by high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes mellitus, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor sleep, among other things. High blood pressure is estimated to account for approximately 13% of CVD deaths, while tobacco accounts for 9%, diabetes 6%, lack of exercise 6%, and obesity 5%. Rheumatic heart disease may follow untreated strep throat.

It is estimated that up to 90% of CVD may be preventable. Prevention of CVD involves improving risk factors through. Treating risk factors, such as high blood pressure, blood lipids and diabetes is also beneficial. Treating people who have strep throat with antibiotics can decrease the risk of rheumatic heart disease. The use of aspirin in people, who are otherwise healthy, is of unclear benefit.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide except Africa. Together CVD resulted in 17.9 million deaths (32.1%) in 2015, up from 12.3 million (25.8%) in 1990. Deaths, at a given age, from CVD are more common and have been increasing in much of the developing world, while rates have declined in most of the developed world since the 1970s. Coronary artery disease and stroke account for 80% of CVD deaths in males and 75% of CVD deaths in females. Most cardiovascular disease affects older adults. In the United States 11% of people between 20 and 40 have CVD, while 37% between 40 and 60, 71% of people between 60 and 80, and 85% of people over 80 have CVD. The average age of death from coronary artery disease in the developed world is around 80, while it is around 68 in the developing world. CVD is typically diagnosed seven to ten years earlier in men than in women.


Inflammatory heart diseases world map - DALY - WHO2004
Disability-adjusted life year for inflammatory heart diseases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004      No data      Less than 70      70–140      140–210      210–280      280–350      350–420      420–490      490–560      560–630      630–700      700–770      More than 770

There are many cardiovascular diseases involving the blood vessels. They are known as vascular diseases.

There are also many cardiovascular diseases that involve the heart.

  • Cardiomyopathy – diseases of cardiac muscle
  • Hypertensive heart disease – diseases of the heart secondary to high blood pressure or hypertension
  • Heart failure - a clinical syndrome caused by the inability of the heart to supply sufficient blood to the tissues to meet their metabolic requirements
  • Pulmonary heart disease – a failure at the right side of the heart with respiratory system involvement
  • Cardiac dysrhythmias – abnormalities of heart rhythm
  • Inflammatory heart disease
    • Endocarditisinflammation of the inner layer of the heart, the endocardium. The structures most commonly involved are the heart valves.
    • Inflammatory cardiomegaly
    • Myocarditis – inflammation of the myocardium, the muscular part of the heart, caused most often by viral infection and less often by bacterial infections, certain medications, toxins, and autoimmune disorders. It is characterized in part by infiltration of the heart by lymphocyte and monocyte types of white blood cells.
    • Eosinophilic myocarditis - inflammation of the myocardium caused by pathologically activated eosinophilic white blood cells. This disorder differs from myocarditis in its causes and treatments.
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Congenital heart disease – heart structure malformations existing at birth
  • Rheumatic heart disease – heart muscles and valves damage due to rheumatic fever caused by Streptococcus pyogenes a group A streptococcal infection.


Up to 90% of cardiovascular disease may be preventable if established risk factors are avoided. Currently practised measures to prevent cardiovascular disease include:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, a vegetarian, vegan or another plant-based diet.
  • Replacing saturated fat with healthier choices: Clinical trials show that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced CVD by 30%. Prospective observational studies show that in many populations lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of CVD.
  • Decrease body fat if overweight or obese. The effect of weight loss is often difficult to distinguish from dietary change, and evidence on weight reducing diets is limited. In observational studies of people with severe obesity, weight loss following bariatric surgery is associated with a 46% reduction in cardiovascular risk.
  • Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and consumption of alcohol is associated with increased risk of a cardiovascular event in the day following consumption.
  • Decrease non-HDL cholesterol. Statin treatment reduces cardiovascular mortality by about 31%.
  • Stopping smoking and avoidance of second-hand smoke. Stopping smoking reduces risk by about 35%.
  • At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate exercise per week.
  • Lower blood pressure, if elevated. A 10 mmHg reduction in blood pressure reduces risk by about 20%. Lowering blood pressure appears to be effective even at normal blood pressure ranges.
  • Decrease psychosocial stress. This measure may be complicated by imprecise definitions of what constitute psychosocial interventions. Mental stress–induced myocardial ischemia is associated with an increased risk of heart problems in those with previous heart disease. Severe emotional and physical stress leads to a form of heart dysfunction known as Takotsubo syndrome in some people. Stress, however, plays a relatively minor role in hypertension. Specific relaxation therapies are of unclear benefit.
  • Not enough sleep also raises the risk of high blood pressure. Adults need about 7–9 hours of sleep. Sleep apnea is also a major risk as it causes breathing to stop briefly, which can put stress on the body which can raise the risk of heart disease.

Most guidelines recommend combining preventive strategies. There is some evidence that interventions aiming to reduce more than one cardiovascular risk factor may have beneficial effects on blood pressure, body mass index and waist circumference; however, evidence was limited and the authors were unable to draw firm conclusions on the effects on cardiovascular events and mortality.

There is additional evidence to suggest that providing people with a cardiovascular disease risk score may reduce risk factors by a small amount compared to usual care. However, there was some uncertainty as to whether providing these scores had any effect on cardiovascular disease events. It is unclear whether or not dental care in those with periodontitis affects their risk of cardiovascular disease.


Cardiovascular disease is treatable with initial treatment primarily focused on diet and lifestyle interventions. Influenza may make heart attacks and strokes more likely and therefore influenza vaccination may decrease the chance of cardiovascular events and death in people with heart disease.

Proper CVD management necessitates a focus on MI and stroke cases due to their combined high mortality rate, keeping in mind the cost-effectiveness of any intervention, especially in developing countries with low or middle-income levels. Regarding MI, strategies using aspirin, atenolol, streptokinase or tissue plasminogen activator have been compared for quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) in regions of low and middle income. The costs for a single QALY for aspirin and atenolol were less than US$25, streptokinase was about $680, and t-PA was $16,000. Aspirin, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and statins used together for secondary CVD prevention in the same regions showed single QALY costs of $350.

There are also surgical or procedural interventions that can save someone's life or prolong it. For heart valve problems, a person could have surgery to replace the valve. For arrhythmias, a pacemaker can be put in place to help reduce abnormal heart rhythms and for a heart attack, there are multiple options two of these are a coronary angioplasty and a coronary artery bypass surgery.

There is probably no additional benefit in terms of mortality and serious adverse events when blood pressure targets were lowered to ≤ 135/85 mmHg from ≤ 140 to 160/90 to 100 mmHg.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Enfermedades cardiovasculares para niños

kids search engine
Cardiovascular disease Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.