Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. Cardiovascular disease symptoms may be different for men and women. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain; women are more likely to have symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue. 

Cardiovascular diseases can be divided into two types:

  1. The first type is involving the blood vessels. They are known as coronary artery diseases (CAD), (Pic. 1) such as angina pectoris (sensation of chest pain, pressure, or squeezing, often due to not enough blood flow to the heart muscle as a result of obstruction or spasm of the coronary arteries) and heart attack (occurs when the coronary arteries narrow so much that they cut off blood supply to the heart and the heart cells begin to die as they are deprived of oxygen).
  2. The second type of cardiovascular diseases involve the heart such as arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm), heart valve disease, congenital heart defects, pericarditis (inflammation of the fibrous sac surrounding the heart), pulmonary heart disease, and rheumatic heart disease.

Some people are born with conditions that predispose them to heart disease and stroke, but most people who develop cardiovascular disease do so because of a combination of factors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity and smoking, among others. Atherosclerosis (fatty deposits that can clog arteries) is also the most common cause of cardiovascular disease.

The diagnosis will likely be perform by a physical exam and questions about personal and family medical history. Besides blood tests and a chest X-ray, tests to diagnose heart disease can include electrocardiogram (detect irregularities in heart's rhythm and structure), echocardiogram (ultrasound of the chest, showing detailed images of heart's structure and function) and many others.

In general, treatment for heart disease usually includes lifestyle changes such as eating a low-fat and low-sodium diet, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. If lifestyle changes alone aren't enough, the doctor may prescribe medications to control heart disease. If medications aren't enough, it's possible that specific procedures or surgery will be recommended. The type of procedure will depend on the type of heart disease and the extent of the damage to heart.


  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms
  • pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
  • racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • fainting (syncope) or near fainting
  • pale gray or blue skin color (cyanosis)
  • swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes
  • fatigue
  • sweating

Associated diseases

  • diabetes
  • polycythemia (high red blood cell count)
  • pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart)
  • atherosclerosis
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)


Heart failure

Over time, CAD can lead to heart failure. Heart failure means that heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to body. This can cause fluid buildup in the lungs, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the legs, liver, or abdomen.

Heart attack

A heart attack occurs when the coronary arteries narrow so much that they cut off blood supply to the heart. The heart cells begin to die as they are deprived of oxygen. Symptoms include shortness of breath and severe chest pain that may radiate to the back, jaw, or left arm.


 A serious complication that can occur anywhere in your body, an aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of your artery. If an aneurysm bursts, you may face life-threatening internal bleeding.

Sudden cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness, often caused by an arrhythmia. Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it is fatal, resulting in sudden cardiac death. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It’s usually caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart. Arrhythmias caused by heart disease can lead to cardiac arrest. This will lead to death if not treated immediately.


When the heart isn’t working effectively, blood clots are more likely to form in the blood vessels. A stroke occurs when one of these clots lodges in a blood vessel in the brain and cuts off blood flow. Stroke symptoms include loss of balance, coordination, confusion, trouble speaking.

Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is similar to a stroke, but the blocked blood vessel is in the lungs instead of the brain. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain on breathing, and bluish skin.

Risk factors

  • hypertension (raised blood pressure)
  • hyperglycemia (raised blood sugar)
  • hyperlipidemia (raised blood cholesterol)
  • advanced age
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • physical inactivity
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • unhealthy diet
  • genetic predisposition
  • family history of cardiovascular dinase
  • being male
  • psychological factors (e.g. stress, depression)


Up to 90% of cardiovascular disease may be preventable if risk factors are avoided (Pic. 2).

Female fertility

Women who have been diagnosed with a heart condition should check with their physician to see if treatment and pregnancy are safe for them. Fortunately, there are options like egg donation and/or surrogacy to help build a family if health would be at risk.

Male fertility 

According to a study conducted at Stanford University, there is a link between normal sperm status and overall health. After studying the records of nearly 10,000 men, the researchers found that about half the men had abnormal sperm. Taking it a step further, they also found that heart, vascular and blood pressure problems could have played a role in causing their infertility. The study authors recommend that men try to decrease stress and stick to a Mediterranean diet to improve their fertility while decreasing blood pressure.

Heart attack and stroke are leading causes of death globally. Despite the advances made in cardiac care over the previous century, it is thought that the global epidemic of cardiovascular diseases is both increasing and shifting from developed to developing countries. While treatments are available for some cardiovascular disease patients, prevention must remain a priority through the reduction of known risk factors. 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder causing infertility in three to ten percent of reproductive-aged women. Though the cause of PCOS is not known, what is known is that PCOS causes menstrual irregularities, the inability to get pregnant, increased hair growth on the face and chest, acne, and obesity. Additionally if not treated properly, it can have long-term consequence, including increasing risk for heart disease. This is due to the higher levels of insulin caused by PCOS, which are known to elevate levels of triglyceride and cholesterol, lower high density lipoprotein (HDL), raise blood pressure and increase atherosclerosis in blood vessels. In turn, these symptoms increase the risks for a heart attack and/or stroke.

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