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Only 6 decades ago, we didn’t know what caused cardiovascular disease, and many Americans died of heart attacks in their 50s or 60s. By the late 1940s, cardiovascular disease was responsible for half of all U.S. deaths.
NIH-funded research, beginning with the Framingham Heart Study in the late 1940s, helped to define the concept of risk factors and changed the course of public health. Although heart disease remains the leading cause of death nationwide, the death rate for heart disease has dropped by more than 60% since 1940. The death rate for stroke — the third most common cause of death — declined by 70% over the same time period.
Now we have new and more effective treatments such as clot-buster drug therapy to open up blocked arteries. We also know that heart attack, sudden death, and stroke can often be prevented by quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure, exercising regularly, and taking therapies like statins, aspirin, and beta-blockers. Increasingly, we are able to pinpoint those at highest risk for future illness — even before any symptoms appear—and offer them effective prevention strategies.
Imagine the Future...
- Personal gene chips predict risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, kidney, and heart disease.
- Doctors routinely use minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to pre-empt heart disease.
This page last reviewed on October 7, 2015