This term covers a range of conditions that affect the normal circulation of blood.
Although it often causes no symptoms or immediate problems, high blood pressure (sometimes called hypertension) is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions.
High blood pressure usually defined as having a sustained pressure of 140/90mmHg or more, and affects 40% of adults in England. The incidence increases with age, and is more likely in people of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian origin.4
High blood pressure makes your heart work harder to pump blood around your body. The increased pressure can damage the walls of your arteries, which can cause a blockage or the artery to split. Either can result in a stroke.
High blood pressure can be treated or prevented by making changes to your lifestyle, and medicines are also available to help lower blood pressure.
Angina is another common condition in older people - between 10-15% of women over the age of 65 have angina, and up to 20% of men of the same age.5
It is caused when the supply of blood to the heart becomes restricted, usually because the arteries have hardened and narrowed. The most usual symptom is chest pain, often triggered by physical activity. Risk factors include old age, smoking, obesity and a high-fat diet.
There are two main types of angina - stable and unstable. Stable angina usually develops gradually and follows a set pattern, with symptoms lasting for a few minutes. Stable angina is not life-threatening, but a warning of increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The most common treatment is glyceryl trinitrate and, in some cases, surgery.
With unstable angina, symptoms develop rapidly and can last up to 30 minutes. It should be regarded as a medical emergency because the function of the heart has suddenly and rapidly deteriorated, increasing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Treatment can involve medication and surgery.
4 http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-pressure-(high)/Pages/Introduction.aspx - Accessed 04/06/10
5 http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/angina/Pages/Introduction.aspx - Accessed 04/06/10