Disorders of the cardiovascular system are a major cause of poor health and early death in the developed world. In some cases, cardiovascular disorders can be improved by changes in lifestyle, such as improving diet or giving up smoking. In other cases, cardiovascular disorders require treatment with drugs that act on the blood vessels, the heart, or the kidneys.
The opening article in this section discusses drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure, a disorder that affects 1 in 5 people in developed countries. A number of these drugs are effective not only in lowering blood pressure but also in the treatment of heart failure, angina, and coronary artery disease.
The next article gives an overview of the types of drug that may be used in the treatment of arrhythmias, a group of disorders in which the heart beats extremely rapidly or with an abnormal rhythm.
Specific classes of drugs are discussed in separate articles. Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are used to treat certain arrhythmias; these drugs and nitrates also treat coronary artery disease; diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers are helpful in treating congestive heart failure; and most are useful in lowering high blood pressure.
Lipid-lowering drugs, which are used to reduce the risk of heart attack by lowering levels of fats in the blood, are discussed elsewhere (see Drugs acting on the endocrine system and metabolism).
For information on the structure and function of the cardiovascular system, see Cardiovascular System.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.