Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(8):1342

See related article on cardiovascular disease.

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is when there are changes in your blood vessels. These changes are caused by age and unhealthy habits, like smoking. They also can run in families. Having CVD makes you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. In the United States, more than 10 times as many women die from CVD as from breast cancer.

How can I tell if I have CVD?

You may not notice that you have CVD. You are more likely to have it if you:

  • smoke,

  • are obese,

  • are older,

  • have high blood pressure,

  • have diabetes,

  • have high cholesterol, or

  • have a relative with CVD.

Ask your doctor if you are at risk for heart disease and stroke.

What can I do to prevent CVD?

  • Stop smoking.

  • Exercise regularly. For example, walk, jog, or swim for 30 minutes every day.

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.

  • Keep at a healthy body weight. Ask your doctor what your body mass index (or BMI) is. Try to keep your BMI below 25 kg per m2.

  • Take all your medicines and follow your doctor’s directions, especially if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Heart Association

Continue Reading


More in AFP

More in Pubmed

Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See https://www.aafp.org/about/this-site/permissions.html for copyright questions and/or permission requests.