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The Heart in Crisis

What is Cardiovascular Disease?

• Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a general term covering diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

• There are risk factors that cannot be controlled like age, gender and genetic make-up but there are those that can be changed by enjoying an active lifestyle and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

• Important risk factors that can be influenced by lifestyle choices include abnormal blood lipids, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and smoking and physical inactivity.

• 80% of the population’s attributable risks could be reduced through healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoidance of smoking.

• More than three quarters of CVD result from tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or their combination.

• High cholesterol is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease – yet most people don’t know they have it and there are no warning signs.

• Seven out of ten adults in developed countries, both men and women, have total cholesterol levels above the recommended 5.0 mmol/l.


Killer Heart Health Facts

• Cardiovascular disease has reached epidemic numbers and respects no borders.

• Since 1990, more people have died from coronary heart disease than any other cause.

• Heart disease and stroke kill as many women as men.

• Nearly one in three deaths is due to cardiovascular disease. It is now the leading cause of death world-wide with nearly 17.5 million people dying from this condition each year – that’s almost the population of New York state (or equivalent state in other countries), and more than the population of Switzerland and Sweden combined.

• Globally the number of deaths caused by CVD continues to increase. It is projected that the number of deaths from CVD per year will reach 20 million by 2020 and 24 million by 2030.

• Even in the developed countries where the incidence of CVD is declining the number of deaths from CVD will continue to increase due to the ageing population.

• CVD kills every year 2.5 times as many people as do all cancers combined.

• The equivalent of 120 full jumbo jets of people die of heart disease every day worldwide (400 passengers x 120 x 365=17.5 million).

• Worldwide each year the equivalent of the entire population of Beijing (15 million people) suffer strokes. Of these 5 million die and another 5 million people are left permanently disabled.

• 80-90% of people who die from coronary heart disease have at least one major risk factor that is influenced by lifestyle.

• Each year 4.4 million people die as a result of raised total cholesterol levels – that’s more than the whole population of New Zealand / close to the whole population of Norway.

• High cholesterol levels alone are estimated to cause 56 % of global CVD.

• Half of the people who die from CVD have no previous signs of heart disease.

• 80% of CVD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

• In the USA, someone dies of CVD every 35 seconds.

• In Europe CVD causes the death of 4.35 million people annually – that’s nearly half of all deaths and one death every 7 seconds!

• In Europe: Heart Disease is the No. 1 killer.

• In Europe the overall cost of CVD is 169 billion Euros per year – the total GDP of Norway!

• CVD ranks first in disease burden (illness and death) in Europe with more than 34 million years lost in disability.

• Unless current trends are halted or reversed, over one billion people will die prematurely from CVD in the first half of the 21st century. This would be an enormous tragedy, given that research shows that CVD is largely preventable.

• The estimated average number of years of life lost due to a heart attack is 14.2 years.

• No matter what advances there are in high technology medicine, the fundamental message is that major reductions in deaths and disability caused by CVD will come from prevention, not cure.

1 - WHO. Preventing Chronic Disease; A vital investment. WHO: Geneva; 2005.
2 - Mackay J, Mensah G.The Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke. WHO: Geneva; 2004.
3 - WHO. The World Health Report 2002. Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life. WHO: Geneva; 2002.
4 - Tolonen H, Keil U, Ferrario M, Evans A. Prevalence, awareness and treatment of hypercholesterolemia in 32 populations: results from the WHO MONICA project. Int J Epidemiol 2005;34:181-92.
5 - Myenburg RJ, Kessler KM, Castellanos A. Sudden cardiac death: Epidemiology, transient risk, and intervention assessment. Ann Intern Med 1993;119:1187-97.
6 - Thom T, Haase N, Rosamond W, Howard VJ, Rumsfeld J, Manolio T. Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2006 update: A report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Circulation 2006;113:85-115.
7 - Petersen S, Peto V, Rayner M, Leal J, Luengo-Fernandez R, Gray A. European cardiovascular disease statistics. BHF: London; 2005

1 in 4 of all South African women will die because of heart complications, I Think Red for South African women.

Uyanda Mbuli
Feb 2012