heart facts

Heart Disease Facts

Types of Heart Disease

Diseases of the heart and circulatory system are called cardiovascular disease or CVD. CVD comes in two main forms:

1. Heart disease (CHD), and
2. Stroke.

Statistics Of Heart Disease


CVD is the No 1 cause of death in America. Up to 1 million Americans will die of CVD in 2002. According to statistics released by the American Heart Association (AHA):

  • At least 58,800,000 million Americans (i.e. 1 person in 4) suffer from some form of heart disease.
  • 50 million suffer from high blood pressure
  • 12 million suffer from coronary heart disease
  • 6.2 million suffer from angina pectoris
  • 7 million suffer from heart attack
  • 4.4 million suffer from stroke
  • 1.8 million suffer from rheumatic heart disease/fever
  • 1 million suffer from congenital cardiovascular defects
  • 4.6 million suffer from congestive heart failure


More American heart facts

  • Of the 50 million Americans who have high blood pressure (the leading contributor to heart disease) 35 percent don’t know they have it. High blood pressure is easily detectable and usually controllable.
  • Almost 1 out of every 2.4 deaths in the USA result from CVD.
  • Since 1900, CVD has been the leading cause of death in every year but one – 1918.
  • About every 29 seconds an American will suffer a coronary event.
  • About every 60 seconds, someone dies from one.
  • At least 250,000 people die of heart attacks each year before they reach a hospital.
  • Half of all heart attack victims wait more than two hours before getting help.
  • CVD is the cause of more deaths than the next 7 causes of death put together.
  • It is a myth that heart disease is a man’s disease. In fact, cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer of women (and men). These diseases currently claim the lives of more than a half a million females every year – more than the next 16 causes of death put together.
  • In 57 percent of men and 64 percent of women who died suddenly from CVD, there were no previous symptoms of the disease.
  • The cost of CVD in 1999 is estimated at $286.5 billion – an increase of about $12 billion from last year.
  • Stroke killed 159,942 people in 1996.
  • On average, someone in the US suffers a stroke every 53 seconds.
  • On average, someone dies from stroke every 3 minutes 20 seconds.

Coronary Heart Disease Statistics

Europe & EU

CVD kills 4 million Europeans each year. It’s the No 1 cause of death.

  • It causes 49% of all European deaths: 55% deaths (women); 43% (men).
  • About half of all deaths from CVD are from heart disease and nearly a third are from stroke.
  • Over one in five women (22%) and men (21%) die from the disease.
  • CVD kills 1.5 million EU citizens each year. It’s the No 1 cause of death in the EU.
  • It causes 42% of all deaths in the EU: 46% of deaths (women) and 38% deaths (men).
  • Between a third and a half of deaths from CVD are from heart disease, and 25% from stroke.
  • CVD is the main cause of death for women in all 15 countries of the EU and it is the main cause of death for men in all these countries except France.

Deaths before the age of 75
CVD is the main cause of deaths before the age of 75 in Europe: accounting for nearly 2 million deaths each year.

CVD is the second main cause of deaths before the age of 75 in the EU: accounting for over 460,000 deaths. CVD causes 31% of deaths; cancer causes 36% of deaths.Deaths before the age of 65
CVD is the main cause of deaths before the age of 65 in Europe: accounting for over 800,000 deaths each year.

CVD is the second main cause of deaths before the age of 65 in the EU: accounting for over 170,000 deaths. CVD causes 22% of deaths; but cancer causes 35% of deaths.

CVD is the main cause of deaths before the age of 65 for men in six EU countries – Austria, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Sweden and the UK. For women it is not the main cause of deaths before the age of 65 for any country in the EU.

Heart-Attacks And Strokes

heart-attack occurs when we develop a blockage in one of the arteries supplying blood to our heart. A stroke is the result of a blockage in one of the arteries to our brain. In either case, the story is the same. Lack of blood stops the heart or brain from working so it shuts down and we collapse.

How does an arterial-blockage occur?
It occurs as a result of a combination of things.
It occurs as a result of a combination of things.

  • Over time, the wall of our artery becomes diseased or ‘corroded’.
  • As our blood passes through this corroded section, it dumps some of the fat which it is carrying, and this fat forms a bulge in the wall of the artery. Result? In the same way that double-parking narrows a road and causes a slow down in the flow of traffic, this fatty bulge narrows the width of the artery and slows down the flow of blood as it passes around it.
  • If the blood flow gets too slow, and if tiny bits break off the bulge in the wall – clogging up the blood even more – the blood will form a spontaneous clot, completely blocking the artery.

Causes And Risk-factors Of Heart Attacks And Strokes

Things We Can’t Change
Certain factors increase the risk of a heart attack. Some can be changed, while others are inherited. The major factors individuals can’t change include: age, gender and heredity.

Four out of five deaths from the disease are in people over age 65. In this age group, women are twice as likely to die from heart attacks as men.


  • Women are more likely to die from heart disease than from all forms of cancer, chronic lung disease, pneumonia, diabetes, accidents and AIDS combined.
  • However, men have a greater life-long risk of heart attack, and experience attacks earlier in life.

You’re at greater risk if your parents had heart disease.

Things We Can Change
The major factors individuals can change include: smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and being overweight.

Smokers have twice as high a risk of heart attack as nonsmokers, and have two to four times the risk of sudden cardiac death. Smokers are also more likely to die quickly and suddenly than nonsmokers.

High blood pressure
African-Americans have the highest death rates from the disease. This may be due to their higher rates of high blood pressure; about 1 in 3 black adults have high blood pressure, compared to about 1 in 4 white adults. High blood pressure is also generally more severe among elderly African-Americans than elderly whites, leading to more cases of strokes, heart disease and kidney failure.

Cholesterol and cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of your body. It helps make cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D. Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and the foods you eat.

  • Blood cholesterol is made in your liver. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs.
  • Dietary cholesterol comes from animal foods like meats, whole milk dairy foods, egg yolks, poultry and fish.
  • Eating too much dietary cholesterol can make your blood cholesterol go up. Foods from plants, like vegetables, fruits, grains, and cereals, do not have any dietary cholesterol.

The 2 types of cholesterol – (1) LDL (bad), (2) HDL (good)
Like oil and water, cholesterol and blood do not mix. So, for cholesterol to travel through your blood, it is coated with a layer of protein to make a “lipoprotein.” The two lipoproteins are low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL).

  • LDL-cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol in the blood. When too much LDL-cholesterol is in the blood, it can lead to cholesterol buildup in the arteries. That is why LDL-cholesterol is called the “bad” cholesterol.
  • HDL-cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the blood and helps prevent the fatty  buildup. This is why HDL-cholesterol is called the “good” cholesterol.

High cholesterol increases the risk of coronary heart disease. It makes the heart pump more and faster, causing it to weaken. The risk is compounded with other factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure. On the average, each of these doubles your chance of developing heart disease. Therefore, a person who has all three risk factors is eight times more likely to develop heart disease than someone who has none. Diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity are other factors that can lead to coronary heart disease.

Things That Affect Blood Cholesterol
Your blood cholesterol level is influenced by many factors, including:

What you eat
High intake of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and excess calories leading to overweight leads to increased blood cholesterol levels.

It is now universally recognized that a diet which is high in fat, particularly saturated fat, and low in complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables increases the risk of chronic diseases – particularly heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Being overweight can make your LDL-cholesterol level go up and your HDL-cholesterol level go down.

Increased physical activity lowers LDL-cholesterol and raises HDL-cholesterol levels.

Your genes partly influence how your body makes and handles cholesterol.

Age and Sex
Blood cholesterol levels in both men and women begin to go up around age 20. Women before menopause have levels that are lower than men of the same age. After menopause, a woman’s LDL-cholesterol level goes up – and so her risk for heart disease increases.

Individuals who don’t exercise and/or are obese also put themselves at greater risk.
Excess weight strains the heart; influences blood pressure, blood cholesterol and tri-glyceride levels; and increases the risk of diabetes.

Diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease. Heart disease kills more than 80% of people with diabetes.

Stress may also contribute to the development of heart disease, because people may overeat, exercise less or smoke more when they’re under stress.

Symptoms of Angina And Heart Attacks

  • Angina – People with narrowed arteries may experience angina, a discomfort caused by inadequate blood flow. Individuals may experience pain in the chest, arms, neck or back – generally lasting up to 20 minutes after any form of exertion – and have it consistently in the same area, such as the chest.
  • Heart attack– “A tight gripping sensation”…”A crushing sensation”…”Great heaviness or great weight across the chest.” The pain is usually felt not on the left hand side of the chest but across the center of the chest or across the upper abdomen. It frequently moves into the arms or the throat. People often say it is the worst pain they have ever experienced.
  • The typical heart attack victim has usually felt normal until the attack begins. Then he/she will look pale, often sweats, has cold skin and is usually breathless.
  • If the heart disease leads to a heart attack, women are more likely than men to experience nausea or vomiting instead of the violent chest pain that characterizes a heart attack for men. In fact, women sometimes feel no chest pain during a heart attack.
  • You should call your doctor if you experience severe or prolonged angina that lasts longer than 10 to 15 minutes; pain that spreads to the neck, arms or shoulders; or pain along with shortness of breath, nausea, fainting or sweating. If you experience these symptoms, you may be having a heart attack.
  • Chest pains that usually aren’t caused by heart problems last under five seconds in different parts of the chest, and are caused by deep breaths or movements, not exertion.
  • Less common signs of a heart attack include unexplained fatigue, weakness or anxiety.