Heart Health - Cardiovascular Disease

February is Heart Health Month

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in Utah and the U.S.

What is cardiovascular disease?

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and other diseases of the heart. It also includes the peripheral vascular system, or the system of veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the heart and lungs.
  • Many individuals can be a high risk for heart disease and stroke but may not have any symptoms.
  • Age and family history increase the risk for heart disease. Men have a higher risk of heart disease than pre-menopausal women. Once women reach menopause, their risk of heart disease is similar to men’s.  The risk for stroke is also similar for men and women.
  • Modifiable risk factors for heart disease and stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity.  Controlling these risk factors could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80 percent.

What is the prevalence?

  • One in three adults in the U.S. has some form of cardiovascular disease
  • CVD is the number one killer of both men and women.  It accounts for one third of all deaths in the world.
  • In Utah, more than 3,500 people die every year from CVD.
  • In Utah, men have higher age-adjusted death rates from CVD than women (191.6 per 100,000 vs. 171. 6 per 100,000 women.
  • In Utah, both men and women have higher rates of CVD than their U.S. counterparts (see table below)

Cardiovascular Disease and Women

Coronary heart disease is a type of CVD that develops when plaque builds up inside the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Men are more likely than women to die from coronary heart disease, but women are more likely than men to die from heart attack. 

There is some evidence that men have a higher one-year survival rate than women after having a heart attack.  One study showed that 24% of men die within one year of having a heart attack but the percentage for women in nearly twice that, 42%. The reasons for this difference are unknown but several factors may contribute:

  • Women are usually older than men when they develop heart disease.
  • Women are more likely than men to have co-existing conditions when they develop heart disease.
  • Symptoms of a heart attack for a woman may be expressed differently than the symptoms for a man, reducing the likelihood that they are diagnosed correctly or treated aggressively.
  • Women are more likely than men to experience delays in receiving emergency department care for cardiac symptoms.
  • Women who experience a stroke may be more likely to have an incomplete evaluation and less likely to receive adequate discharge regimens, such as stroke prevention and outpatient follow-up care.
  • In Utah, women are less likely to use emergency medical services (e.g., calling for an ambulance or calling 911) for cardiac-related emergencies than men.