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Prev Cardiol. 2002 Fall;5(4):188-99.

Reducing the global burden of cardiovascular disease: the role of risk factors.

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Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA 02215, USA.


During the last century, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has burgeoned from a relatively minor disease worldwide to a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. By 2020 it is projected that CVD will surpass infectious disease as the worlds leading cause of death and disability. Some of this increase in the relative importance of CVD is due to improved public health measures and medical care leading to longer life spans and reduced mortality from other causes. However, a substantial portion of the increasing global impact of CVD is attributable to economic, social, and cultural changes that have led to increases in risk factors for CVD. These changes are most pronounced in the countries comprising the developing world. Because the majority of the worlds population lives in the developing world, the increasing rate of CVD in these countries is the driving force behind the continuing dramatic worldwide increase in CVD. In order to blunt the impact of the global explosion in CVD, it will be crucial to attempt to understand and reduce the global increase in CVD risk factors. In this review, the authors describe the changes responsible for the global epidemic of CVD, with particular attention to the contributions of established risk factors and their impact on the growth of CVD among the worlds various economic sectors. The authors outline the major challenges facing countries in different economic sectors, and discuss ways to address these challenges with the goal of reducing the global burden of CVD.

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