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The cardiovascular system – the heart, the blood vessels and the blood – is vital to maintaining life. Things can go wrong at all levels, from the constituents of the blood to the pipes that carry it around the body and the pump itself.
Cardiovascular disease describes a variety of conditions that affect the flow of blood to the heart. Many of them are linked to an initial problem called atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis the lining of the arteries becomes coated with fatty substances referred to as plaque or atheroma. Atherosclerosis leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries. It is linked to high blood cholesterol levels, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking. Atherosclerosis can lead to a number of different problems with the cardiovascular system.
There are other types of heart problems as well. These include:
The human cardiovascular system
People have tried to treat heart disease for centuries – long before we had any real understanding of how the heart works. Here are some of the medicines used to treat heart problems – and how they work: