Killer Facts About Heart Disease

Edition: February 2002 - Vol 10 Number 02
Article#: 1162
Author: Laura Thill

Cardiovascular disease – or CVD – has been the number one killer in America since 1900, with the exception of 1918. In 1999 alone, CVD was responsible for 958,775 deaths in this country, or over 40 percent of all mortality that year. Thirty-three percent of these deaths were premature – or before that year's average life expectancy of 75 years. Nearly 150,000 Americans younger than 65 years die of CVD annually, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). On another scale, over 2,600 Americans die of CVD daily, or about one death every 33 seconds. Of the 61.8 million Americans diagnosed with CVD, 29.7 million are men and 32.1 million are women. Male or female, the AHA estimates that one of every five individuals is coping with some kind of CVD. February is National Heart Month, and in an effort to heighten public awareness of CVD and keep people breast of current data, the AHA has prepared its 2002 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update. The charts below represent some of the most current statistics on CVD death trends in the United States:

When analyzed apart from other forms of CVD, stroke is ranked the third leading cause of mortality, following CVD and cancer. It killed 167,366 individuals in the United States in 1999 – or one of every 14.3 deaths, according to the AHA. The 2002 Heart and Stroke Update offers the following facts about stroke:
About 600,000 individuals have a stroke each year.
•About 500,000 of these attacks are first-time incidents, and 100,000 are recurrent (Framingham Heart and Study, NHLBI).
•Someone will have a stroke every 53 seconds in the United States, and someone will die of stroke every 3.1 minutes.
•        Artherothrombotic brain infarctions contribute to 61 percent of all strokes, while cerebral emboli account for 24 percent.
•        7.6 percent of ischemic strokes and 37.5 percent of hemorrhagic strokes lead to death within 30 days.
•        About 4.6 million stroke survivors live today.
•        The stroke death rate dropped 13 percent during the 1990s, however the number of actual deaths from stroke during this period jumped 8.6 percent.

In addition, the NHLBI's Framingham Heart Study points out that:
•        Nearly 28 percent of stroke victims are under 65 years.
•        The chances of having a stroke more than doubles in each successive decade for individuals over 55 years.
•        Both men and women face a one in 20 risk for stroke prior to age 70.
•        Stroke is more common in men than in women; however at older ages, the incidence is higher for women than men. Overall, more women than men die of stroke. In 1999, 64,485 men died of stroke, compared to 102,881 women. The leading cause of long term disability in the United States, in 1999 stroke was associated with 1.1 million American adults who were limited in their daily activity as a result of having suffered a stroke.

The primary cause of 42,997 deaths in the United States, hypertension is a factor in the lives of nearly 50 million Americans six years and older. One of every five individuals has high blood pressure, according to the AHA. Of these people:
•        31.6 percent don't know they have it.
•        27.4 percent have controlled it with medication.
•        26.2 percent are on medication but are unable to control their hypertension.
•        14.8 percent are not on medication.

While more men than women 55 years or younger are diagnosed with hypertension, this relationship shifts with aging such that from 55 to 74 years, more women than men have high blood pressure. In 1999, 17,194 men and 25,803 women died from high blood pressure, according to the AHA. The death rate that year was:
•        15.9 percent for all people.
•        12.8 percent for white males.
•        46.8 percent for black males.
•        12.8 percent for white females.
•        40.3 percent for black females.

Among Americans 18 years and older, the median percentages of people who have been informed by their physician that they have high blood pressure, according to the 2002 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update, are:
•        23 percent for whites.
•        30.9 percent for blacks.
•        18.6 percent for Hispanics.
•        16.3 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders.
•        20.7 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives.

Approximately half of those who suffer a first heart attack, and two-thirds of those who have a first stroke, are evaluated with blood pressures exceeding 160/95 mm Hg (Framingham Heart Study, NHLBI).