Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, encompasses a number of conditions that affect the heart—not just heart attacks. As the number one cause of death in the United States, heart disease cuts across gender and racial divides. Half of heart disease-related deaths in 2006 occurred in women and it’s the most common cause of death in every minority group except Asian Americans, for whom it’s the second leading cause of death after cancer.
Heart disease also includes functional problems of the heart such as heart-valve abnormalities or irregular heart rhythms. These problems can lead to heart failure (which occurs when the heart doesn’t pump efficiently), arrhythmias (when the heart beats with an irregular rhythm), and a host of other problems. Heart disease can also be caused by congenital abnormalities, or birth defects that affect the heart.
- The number of adults diagnosed with heart disease in the U.S. that are not institutionalized is 27.1 million, or approximately 11.8 percent of the total population.
- The data from a 2008 study shows that 2,200 people in the Unites States died from cardiovascular disease daily, with 150,000 deaths that year occurring in people under age 65.
- Coronary heart disease alone caused about one in six deaths.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that heart disease cost the United States $316.4 billion in medical care, pharmaceutical products, and lost productivity in 2010.
- In nursing homes in the U.S., the number of patients with heart disease is 635,000—which is equal to about 43 percent of total nursing home patients.
- In the U.S. in 2009, there were 599,413 deaths due to heart disease, including approximately 195.2 deaths per 100,000 in the general population.
- Current home healthcare patients with a primary diagnosis of heart disease was 135,700 in the U.S. in 2007, which equates to 9.3 percent of all home healthcare patients.
- Each year, it is estimated that approximately 785,000 people in the U.S. will have a new coronary attack, and approximately 470,000 will have a recurrent attack.
- It is estimated that 195,000 silent myocardial infarctions occur each year where the individuals do not seek medical care or attention.
- From 1997 to 2007, the actual mortality rate from coronary disease actually decreased by 27.8 percent.
- Heart disease deaths are highest in the southeast and lowest in the western states.
Medical Costs and Care Facts
- In 2007, there were 16.7 million visits to U.S. healthcare facilities (including emergency rooms, doctor offices, and hospital outpatient centers) due to heart disease.
- Ischemic heart disease accounted for 13.9 million medical visits in 2007.
- The average length of hospital stay in the U.S. for a primary diagnosis of heart disease is 4.6 days.
- Approximately 69 percent of all individuals of all ages and genders that have a first heart attack, 77 percent of those having a first stroke, and 74 percent with congestive heart failure also have high blood pressure.
Ethnic, Age, and Gender Issues
- In 2007, deaths due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) varied between gender and ethnicity. White males passed away at a rate of 294.0 per 100,000, black males at a rate of 405.9 per 100,000, black females at a rate of CVD death at 286.1 per 100,000 while white females had the lowest death rate at 205.7 per 100,000.
- High cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease, is found in approximately 16.9 percent of Mexican-American males, 13.7 percent of non-Hispanic white males, 9.7 percent of non-Hispanic black males, 16.9 percent of non-Hispanic white women, 13.3 percent of non-Hispanic black females, and 14.0 percent of Mexican-American females.
- Seventy-six million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure. The highest percentages of high blood pressure cases are found in non-Hispanic black males (43.0 percent) and non-Hispanic black females (45.7 percent).
- Americans of Asian heritage, both male and female, tend to have a lower overall rate of coronary heart disease—4.9 percent compared to the total population rate of 7 percent.
- In the U.S., 39.3 percent of men and 37.2 percent of women age 40-59 have CVD, and these numbers increase to 72.6 percent and 71.9 percent for the age group 60 to 79. For coronary heart disease (CHD), the rates are lower in both groups: 6.0 percent of men and women between 40 to 59 years old, and 22.8 percent of men and 13.9 percent of women between 60 and 79.
While genetics can play a role in the development of heart disease, 90 percent of people with heart disease have one or more risk factors, most of which are influenced by lifestyle. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- alcohol consumption
- diabetes, smoking
- an inactive lifestyle
- poor diet
These risk factors are common among Americans. In fact, the CDC found that 37 percent of people in the United States had two or more risk factors for heart disease in 2003.
A 2010 report from the National Center for Health Statistics found high rates of six heart disease risk factors in U.S. adults from 2005 to 2008. They were:
- inactivity (53 percent)
- obesity (34 percent)
- high blood pressure (32 percent)
- smoking (21 percent)
- high cholesterol (15 percent)
- diabetes (11 percent)
These risk factors have had some unfortunate results. For example, heart disease accounted for more than 630,000 deaths in the United States in 2006—26 percent of total deaths that year. In other words: one person in the United States dies from heart disease every minute, and one person has a heart attack every 34 seconds.
The prevalence of these risk factors in today’s children is particularly troubling. For example, 31.7 percent of children are overweight and nearly 17 percent are obese. High rates of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, poor dietary and exercise habits, and smoking require an awareness of risk factors and education about how to control them. Understanding risk factors is key to lowering heart disease-related deaths.
- Globally, heart disease is the leading cause of death.
- In 2008, 17.3 million people died from heart disease. That’s 30 percent of deaths worldwide.
- Worldwide, the demographic with the highest rate of death due to coronary heart disease is Russian males age 35 to 74 years, with a rate of 351.4 deaths per 100,000.
- This group also has the highest death rates from CVD (1299.2 per 100,000), stroke deaths (351.4 per 100,000), and total deaths from heart disease and stroke (2683.4 per 100,000).
- This group alone dies from heart disease at almost as high a rate as the entire population of the next highest ranked country, Hungary.
- Japan, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Australia have the lowest rates at 277.1, 346.2, 327.6, 326,0, 330.3, and 327.5 deaths per 100,000 respectively.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 80 percent of all deaths due to CVD occur in developing and low- to middle-income countries.
- In 2003, there were an estimated 16.7 million deaths from CVD with 7.2 million due to ischemic heart disease, 5.5 million to stroke, and 3.9 million to hypertensive heart conditions. This accounted for approximately 29.2 percent of all deaths worldwide.
- In Japan, progressive health campaigns developed by the government have been instrumental in decreasing salt intake and reducing risks of developing high blood pressure. This has led to a decrease of approximately 70 percent in the number of deaths per year due to CVD.
- Heart attack and stroke alone account for approximately 12 million deaths and disabilities per year on a worldwide basis.
Despite these sobering statistics, there is hope for people with heart disease or heart disease risk factors. In a 2012 report, the American Heart Association (AHA) noted that deaths caused by heart disease fell by just over 30 percent between 1998 and 2008. In addition, many risk factors for heart disease can be minimized or eliminated by changing the way you eat and exercise.
The popularity of fundraising and awareness programs for cancer has provided hope that similar programs for heart disease will be met with success and increased community awareness. However, decreasing the rates of death from heart disease in the United States and around the world will require individual efforts—such as low-fat diets, adequate exercise, and smoking cessation—as well as research and awareness campaigns.