Chapter 10 – Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

Heart Disease

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. Fortunately, the toll is much less — there are about 425,000 deaths each year from heart disease. In addition, the death rate from stroke, the third most common cause of death, has declined by about 75 percent since the early 1960s (NIH, 2017). While its root causes were unknown at that time, today, researchers can trace the problem to changes in the American lifestyle after World War II. Postwar prosperity led to more sedentary lifestyles and fattier diets. And cigarettes, which were introduced to soldiers during the war, became broadly popular. Researchers believe that the epidemic can be reversed if people eat healthier diets, exercise more, and stop smoking. (GPB, 2017)

Things that lead to Cardiovascular Disease

These 4 things can be linked to cardiovascular disease that you cannot change:

  1. Age – As a person ages there is higher risk for CVD. There is a strong correlation with CVD and age. Although, with males, the risk seems to be when they are younger and females seem to be at higher risk post-menopausal.
  2. Sex – Males are higher risk for CVD, especially at younger ages. Women can be at high risk in later parts of their lives. To help with some of this risk women can look at this
  3. Race – African Americans have the highest risk factor for CVD
  4. Family History/ Race – This can be one of the strongest predictors of CVD, but also has the smallest correlation to CVD overall.

These 4 things can be linked to cardiovascular disease that you can change:

  1. Tobacco – The strongest predictor of CVD is the use tobacco. The use of tobacco accounts for 30% of CVD risk. There is a significant reduction in risk for those who don’t use tobacco.
  2. Obesity – Those that have a BMI greater than 30 have a higher than normal risk than those that do not have a BMI greater than 30. “The “obesity epidemic” experienced by the United States over the past several decades threatens to reverse important progress against heart disease. The NIH has undertaken several efforts to prevent or reduce obesity in children and young adults, including a set of randomized trials to identify effective approaches in individuals and a large project to evaluate community approaches to reduce obesity in children (NIH, 2017)”
  3. Diet – CVD can be correlated to a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Risk of dietary cholesterol intake can be correlated to atherosclerosis.
  4. Diabetes – This condition is viewed as seriously as any of the other controllable factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In fact, those with Type II diabetes, have the same level of risk for a heart attack as those who have already had a heart attack.


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Health and Fitness for Life Copyright © 2019 by Dawn Markell and Diane Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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