Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the main causes of invalidism and premature death in economically developed countries. CVD is not one disease but a set of conditions involving the heart or blood vessels. Many diseases are included under this umbrella including angina, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and non-haemorrhagic strokes. The primary pathology leading to heart disease is atherosclerosis, an inflammatory and a scarring process of the lining of the arteries.
The prevalence of cardiovascular diseases has increased with the average life expectancy (an aging population) and with advances in diagnosis. Cardiovascular diseases are currently responsible for more deaths than any other reported cause in the Americas and Europe; in Europe, accounting for 49% of deaths, with malignant neoplasms (18%) in second place. For both groups of diseases, environmental tobacco smoke is an important environmental risk factor. Urbanization, which increases stress and makes for irregular eating habits (fast food and prepared foods) and air pollution, plays a significant role in cardiovascular diseases. Other major risk factors for heart disease are depression, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol (notably LDL cholesterol), diabetes and excess weight. 63% of coronary heart disease is inherited.