In 2004, more than 36 percent of all deaths in the US -- more than 871,000 -- were traceable to cardiovascular disease. Fully 32 percent of these deaths were premature (in patients under 75 years of age) and 147,000 were in patients aged less than 65 years. By comparison, in that same year, there were approximately 550,000 cancer deaths, 109,000 accidental deaths, 66,000 deaths from Alzheimer's disease, and 13,000 deaths from AIDS.
If all major forms of heart disease were eradicated, the average lifespan in the United States would be nearly seven years longer.
A Growing Problem In Developing Countries
Long considered a disease of affluence, cardiovascular disease is now a major presence in all but the poorest countries, accounting for twice as many deaths in developing countries as in industrialized nations.
The emergence of heart disease in developing countries is directly attributable to the effects of industrialization and urbanization. With socioeconomic development, populations have adopted the diet and lifestyle of affluent nations. Increased consumption of fats and calories; reduced consumption of fiber, fresh fruits, and vegetables; a dramatic increase in tobacco use; and physical inactivity have resulted in widespread cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
The Need to Act
Patients with heart disease are regularly counseled on how to improve their diet and increase their exercise to help reduce the symptoms and worsening of their illness. But most people put little effort into protecting their health by improving their diet and exercise until after problems occur. An alarming increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes -- even in children as young as six years -- suggests that the heart disease epidemic may continue for decades to come.