The underlying mechanisms vary depending on the disease. Coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease involve atherosclerosis. This may be caused by high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption, among others. High blood pressure results in 13% of CVD deaths, while tobacco results in 9%, diabetes 6%, lack of exercise 6% and obesity 5%. Rheumatic heart disease may follow untreated strep throat.
It is estimated that 90% of CVD is preventable. Prevention of atherosclerosis involves improving risk factors through: healthy eating, exercise, avoidance of tobacco smoke and limiting alcohol intake. 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 globally. This is true in all areas of the world except Africa. Together they 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. Disease onset is typically seven to ten years earlier in men as compared to women.
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.
There are many risk factors for heart diseases: age, gender, tobacco use, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, obesity, genetic predisposition and family history of cardiovascular disease, raised blood pressure (hypertension), raised blood sugar (diabetes mellitus), raised blood cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), undiagnosed celiac disease, psychosocial factors, poverty and low educational status, and air pollution. While the individual contribution of each risk factor varies between different communities or ethnic groups the overall contribution of these risk factors is very consistent. Some of these risk factors, such as age, gender or family history/genetic predisposition, are immutable; however, many important cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable by lifestyle change, social change, drug treatment (for example prevention of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes). People with obesity are at increased risk of atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries.
Genetic factors influence the development of cardiovascular disease in men who are less than 55 years-old and in women who are less than 65 years old. Cardiovascular disease in a person's parents increases their risk by 3 fold. Multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) have been found to be associated with cardiovascular disease in genetic association studies, but usually their individual influence is small, and genetic contributions to cardiovascular disease are poorly understood.