A cerebrovascular disease is any disease that affects an artery within the brain, or supplies blood to the brain.
The most common cerebrovascular disease is atherosclerosis, where plaques (fatty deposits) form, leading to narrowing of the arteries. There may also be a defect or weakness in a blood vessel in the brain, which can cause an aneurysm (ballooning of an artery).
Increased risk of stroke
Having a cerebrovascular disease increases your risk of having a stroke, which occurs when there is a sudden blockage, or rupture, of a blood vessel within the brain.
A blockage may be due to a blood clot forming in the cerebral arteries (a thrombosis), or by a fragment of material (an embolism), such as a blood clot, piece of tissue, cholesterol, or various other substances travelling in the blood stream.
A thrombosis, or an embolism, which completely blocks the blood supply to a part of the brain, or a ruptured blood vessel that causes bleeding within the brain, can cause a stroke.
Transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) are usually caused by an embolism, which blocks small arteries within the brain, leading to a loss of brain function in one area. This lasts until the blockage moves on or is broken down, allowing blood to flow again.
See the 'useful links' section for more information about stroke and TIAs.
Dementia is another possible effect of cerebrovascular disease. About 10% of cases of dementia are due to small, repeated blockages of arterial branches by atherosclerosis, with progressive overall destruction of brain tissue due to deprivation of blood.
See the 'useful links' section for more information about dementia.
Brain: The brain controls thought, memory and emotion. It sends messages to the body controlling movement, speech and senses.
Blood vessel: Blood vessels are the tubes in which blood travels to and from parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are veins, arteries and capillaries.
Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the body that lives in blood and tissue. It is used to make bile acid, hormones and vitamin D.
Blood: Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Tissue: Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.
Embolism: An embolism is the sudden blockage of a blood vessel, usually by a blood clot or air bubble.
Ruptured: A rupture is a break or tear in an organ or tissue.
Arteries: Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a blood-filled sac that forms in a weakened part of a blood vessel.