Most people have heard the statistics for their own country. Cardiovascular disease is the number one leading cause of death – or number two or three. But what about other nations? Are their statistics similar to those of your nation? Is cardiovascular disease as prevalent in New Zealand as it is in Latin America? Is it as much a leading cause of death in Japan as it is in the Middle East Crescent?
What is the global prevalence of cardiovascular disease?
Global Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease
The global prevalence of cardiovascular disease is a big topic, given the fact that a number of different diseases fall into this large umbrella category.
The World Health Organization (WHO), however, provides certain global health statistics from 1990 (Murray CJL & Lopez AD, 1996). Statistics are provided for Established Market Economies, which are Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and the USA. In addition, WHO provides statistics for formerly Socialist regions of the world as a group, India, China, other Asian and island regions, the group of African regions south of the Sahara, Latin American and Caribbean countries, and countries in the Middle East crescent area.
From those statistics, we can see the global prevalence of cardiovascular disease in three categories: coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease, involving angina, typically manifests itself as chest pain. The pain is caused by arterial blockage, which deprives the heart of vital oxygen.
The global prevalence of cardiovascular disease that is coronary in nature appears to follow a fast-moving, stressful lifestyle. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is most prevalent in the Established Market Economies. In those combined countries, 8.2 million people had the disease at the time of the study. India had 6.6 million cases. In former Socialist countries, the number was 5.8 million. The region with the lowest prevalence of coronary heart disease was sub-Saharan Africa. This may be due, at least in part, to the slow pace of life in that region.
The global prevalence of cardiovascular disease that manifests as stroke also appears to follow a fast-moving, stressful lifestyle.
This study found 9.5 million cases of stroke in the Established Market Economies and only 1.3 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Interestingly, China was second in this category, 7.4 million people with stroke. Yet China ranked fourth in CHD, with 4.5 million people.
The Established Market Economies led the way again in global prevalence of cardiovascular disease manifested through diabetes. At the time of the study, 37.9 million people in these nations had diabetes. The runner-up was India, with less than half as many cases: 18.1 million. Sub-Saharan Africa had only 3.9 million cases.
Having viewed the global prevalence of cardiovascular disease, one is forced to ask why. Why is it that regions with wealth, regions that hold some of the greatest medical expertise in the world, have a greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease? Why is it that strokes and diabetes strike more people in the metropolises of the Established Market Economies than in the villages of Africa?
The layman can only conclude that, for all of our knowledge regarding cardiovascular disease, we are woefully lacking in applying that knowledge to prevention.
CAUTION: The author is not a medical professional, and offers the information in this article for educational purposes only.