Resource Centre What Is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a general term covering diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as heart disease, stroke and hypertension (high blood pressure).

High cholesterol is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease – yet most people don’t know that they have it due to the fact that there are usually no warning signs.

Unfortunately, unlike the lifestyle, nutrition and diet choices that we make, when it comes to cardiovascular disease, there are also many risk factors that you have no control over. These include things like your age, gender and genetic make-up. Ultimately, the key to reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease lies in enjoying an active lifestyle and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

80% of the population’s attributable risks could be reduced through healthy diets , regular physical activity and avoidance of smoking.

Killer Facts

Cardiovascular disease has reached epidemic numbers and respects no borders.

In Europe, CVD causes the death of 4.35 million people annually – that’s nearly half of all of deaths in total. 3 In Europe, heart disease is the number one killer and nearly one in three deaths is due to cardiovascular disease (CVD). 3 It is now the leading cause of death world-wide with nearly 17.5 million people dying from this condition each year – that’s almost the population of New York state (or equivalent state in other countries), and more than the population of Switzerland and Sweden combined. 80% of CVD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Cholesterol and Prevention

The higher your cholesterol level, and the longer it is at a high level, the greater your risk of developing heart disease. 5 A 10% reduction in cholesterol may reduce long-term risk of heart disease by up to 20%. 4 Unless current trends are halted or reversed, over one billion people will die prematurely from cardiovascular disease in the first half of the 21st century. This would be an enormous tragedy, given that research shows that cardiovascular disease is largely preventable.


  1. World Health Organisation (2002) The World Health Report 2002. Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life. WHO: Geneva
  2. Preventing Chronic Diseases. A vital investment. WHO, Geneva, 2005
  3. WHO MONICA Project database in the European cardiovascular disease statistics, 2005
  4. NCEP ATPIII 2001. National Cholesterol Education programme. Adult treatment Panel III Report 2001.
  5. Guy de Backer et al. European Guidelines on CVD prevention in clinical practice. European Heart Journal, 2003.