Cardiovascular disease or CVD for short is a term that refers to a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.

Cardiovascular diseases can range from mild to life-threatening and can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

Awareness of cardiovascular disease is especially important for people with diabetes since they are at a higher risk of getting it than people without diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity for people with diabetes.

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Annually, it causes 17.9 million deaths according to the World Health Organization.

Types of cardiovascular disease

There are several different types of cardiovascular diseases. Each condition has its own individual symptoms and treatments.

The most common types of cardiovascular disease include:

  • Arrhythmia: occurs when the heart beats too fast or irregularly which can cause heart palpitations, dizziness, and fainting.
  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart narrow or become blocked, which can lead to chest pain or a heart attack.
  • Heart failure: occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs and can cause fatigue and breathlessness.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet narrow or become blocked and can cause pain, numbness, and tingling.
  • Stroke: occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted and can cause numbness, weakness and difficulty speaking.

Each particular cardiovascular disease can be caused by a variety of risk factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of cardiovascular disease

The symptoms of cardiovascular disease can vary depending on the type of condition a person has.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

Symptoms can be mild or severe and can occur gradually over time or happen suddenly.

Causes of cardiovascular disease

There are many potential causes of cardiovascular disease.

Some of the most common causes include:

Other risk factors can include age, gender, family history, and underlying health conditions such as kidney disease or sleep apnea.

It is important to address these risk factors to prevent and/or manage cardiovascular disease.

Why should people with diabetes be aware of cardiovascular disease?

Uncontrolled blood glucose levels puts people with diabetes at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease for a variety of reasons:

  • Persistently high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels over time. This increases the chance of developing atherosclerosis, a disease in which the arteries constrict and stiffen owing to plaque formation.
  • People with diabetes are more likely to have additional cardiovascular disease risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
  • People with diabetes may have other complications that can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease such as kidney disease or peripheral neuropathy.

Managing your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels is key for people with diabetes to reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Treatment for cardiovascular disease

The treatment for cardiovascular disease will depend on the type and severity of the condition:

  • Medications can be used to manage symptoms or prevent further damage, such as blood thinners, statins, or beta-blockers.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as exercise, behavioural change therapy, healthy eating, and quitting smoking, can also help to improve symptoms and prevent further complications.
  • In severe cases, surgery may be required – such as bypass surgery, angioplasty, or heart transplant.

Prevention of cardiovascular diseases

Preventing cardiovascular disease involves addressing the underlying risk factors that can lead to the condition. This includes:

Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can also help to monitor and manage these risk factors.


Cardiovascular disease is a serious health condition that can lead to life-threatening complications.

Understanding the symptoms, causes, types, treatment, and prevention of cardiovascular diseases is essential to managing this condition and reducing the risk of complications.

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