Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. CVD includes all heart and circulatory diseases, including coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease, hypertension, stroke and vascular dementia.

You are more at risk of having CVD if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of heart disease, if you are a smoker, or are from a black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME)  background.

Why is CVD prevention important?

CVD affects around seven million people in the UK and is a significant cause of disability and death.

CVD is responsible for one in four premature deaths in the UK and accounts for the largest gap in health life expectancy. Those in the most deprived 10% of the population are almost twice as likely to die as a result of CVD than those in the least deprived 10% of the population.

High blood pressure remains the principle risk factor for CVD. However, there are a number of other risk factors, in particular atrial fibrillation (AF) and high cholesterol, where significant health improvements can be made.

  • CVD is a key driver of health inequalities, accounting for 27% for men and 24% for women of the life expectancy gap between rich and poor
  • Those in the most deprived areas are more than three times as likely to die prematurely from CVD as the least deprived areas
  • In addition to deprivation, there are significant health inequalities for people living with severe mental illness (SMI), who on average die 20 years earlier than the general population. About 60% of this excess mortality can be attributed to preventable physical health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease

NHS England’s work on CVD

The new long term plan for the NHS includes a new national focus on cardiovascular disease, including stroke.  Both have been recognised as clinical priorities, and distinct themes in the development of the plan.

We are working with partners, including the British Heart Foundation, the Stroke Association, Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), Public Health England (PHE) and other ALBs and third sector organisations to develop a national programme of work around CVD prevention. Together, these organisations are looking at targeted interventions around optimising care by maximising diagnosis and treatment, minimising individual risk factors through targeted interventions and by minimising population risk through regulatory interventions.

NHS England sits on the National Cardiovascular Disease Prevention System Leadership Forum (CVDSLF), which is the accountable body for the collective programme of work on CVD prevention. It focuses on the three major risk factors – blood pressure, AF, and cholesterol.

The CVDSLF brings together key parties across a range of sectors and professions who have interest, expertise, influence and responsibility relating to work that aims to improve the prevention, early detection and management of high blood pressure, AF and high cholesterol.

It provides a platform for members to align priorities, work collaboratively and help enable system leadership on CVD prevention.


If you would like to find out any more about our work on CVD, please contact