What is cardiovascular disease and can it be prevented?

Dr Jane Benjamin is a GP based in London and specialising in support corporate companies with their employees health. She discusses the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the steps you can take to help avoid it.

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease refers to diseases of the heart and blood vessels, normally caused by build-up of cholesterol deposits inside the arteries. 27% of all deaths in the UK are caused by cardiovascular disease which could be preventable with diet and lifestyle changes.

What are the different types of cardiovascular disease?

1) Coronary heart disease occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscle is disrupted resulting in angina, heart attacks and heart failure.

2) Strokes and TIA’s (transient ischemic attacks - or mini strokes) occur due to a blockage of the arteries in the brain.

3) Peripheral vascular disease occurs when there is a blockage to the arteries of the limbs.

4) Aortic disease occurs when there is cholesterol build-up and damage the aorta which is one of the largest vessels in the body.

What are the causes of cardiovascular disease?

The risk factors for cardiovascular disease are a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. 

 - High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors together with high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, smoking and obesity. 

 - People with a strong family history of heart disease are at increased risk especially if you have a 1st degree relative affected less than 55 years of age.

 - People of South Asian, African and Caribbean descent are at increased risk of heart disease. 

Other risk factors include age over 50 year, being male, an unhealthy diet and increased alcohol intake which leads to elevated blood pressure and cholesterol readings.

What ways can you help prevent cardiovascular disease?

  • Maintain healthy diet low in saturated fats, low in salt and sugar and high in fruit and fibre. 
  • You should have 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily. 
  • You should exercise regularly, aiming for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight and keep your BMI below 25. 
  • Stop smoking and reduce your alcohol intake to a maximum of 14 units per week.
  • Treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar.

About Dr Jane Benjamin
Dr Jane Benjamin in an experienced general practitioner who has spent time working in both London and South Africa. She qualified from the University of Cape Town in 2004 and worked in the UK at leading NHS hospitals where she completed a Doctorate in Nutrition and Gastroenterology through King's College London in 2011.

Following this she joined the private health sector in London and went on to open her own General Practice in South Africa. She is experience in all aspects of general practice and has a keen interest in women's health, sexual health, gastroenterology and nutrition. She is passionate about health screening and preventative medicine and aims to help her patients achieve optimal health and wellness through all life stages. In her free time she enjoys the outdoors, running, travelling and spending time with her young family.

View Jane's current profile