Heart Disease in the United States
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States. Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Under the heart disease umbrella, blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects), among others are included.
The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.” Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease1. Heart and blood vessel disease — also called heart disease — includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke2.
Mortality Statistics: About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths3.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men3. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually3. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack4.
Heart Disease Deaths Vary by Race and Ethnicity
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites. For American Indians or Alaska Natives and Asians or Pacific Islanders, heart disease is second only to cancer. Below are the percentages of all deaths caused by heart disease in 2008, listed by ethnicity5.
|Race of Ethnic Group||% of Deaths|
|American Indians or Alaska Natives||18.4|
|Asians or Pacific Islanders||22.2|
Risk factors for Heart Disease1:
✓Age. Aging increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle.
✓Sex. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, women’s risk increases after menopause.
✓Family history. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).
✓Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
✓Poor diet. A diet that’s high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
✓High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
✓High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
✓Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. Both conditions share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
✓Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
✓Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with many forms of heart disease and some of its other risk factors, as well.
✓Stress. Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors for heart disease.
✓Poor hygiene. Not regularly washing your hands and not establishing other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put you at risk of heart infections, especially if you already have an underlying heart condition. Poor dental health also may contribute to heart disease.
3. CDC, NCHS. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2013, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed Feb. 3, 2015.
4. Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2015 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131:e29-322.
a. CDC. Deaths, percent of total deaths, and death rates for the 15 leading causes of death in 10-year age groups, by race and sex: United States, 2013