Heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD) are the class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels (arteries and veins). While the term technically refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system (as used in MeSH C14), it is usually used to refer to those related to atherosclerosis (arterial disease). These conditions usually have similar causes, mechanisms, and treatments.
Most countries face high and increasing rates of cardiovascular disease. Each year, heart disease kills more Americans than cancer. In recent years, cardiovascular risk in women has been increasing and has killed more women than breast cancer. A large histological study (PDAY) showed vascular injury accumulates from adolescence, making primary prevention efforts necessary from childhood.
By the time that heart problems are detected, the underlying cause (atherosclerosis) is usually quite advanced, having progressed for decades. There is therefore increased emphasis on preventing atherosclerosis by modifying risk factors, such as healthy eating, exercise, and avoidance of smoking.