Reducing the Global Burden of Cardiovascular Disease, Part 1: The Epidemiology and Risk Factors

Circ Res. 2017 Sep 1;121(6):677-694. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.308903.


Current global health policy goals include a 25% reduction in premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by 2025. In this 2-part review, we provide an overview of the current epidemiological data on cardiovascular diseases (CVD), its risk factors, and describe strategies aimed at reducing its burden. In part 1, we examine the global epidemiology of cardiac conditions that have the greatest impact on CVD mortality; the predominant risk factors; and the impact of upstream, societal health determinants (eg, environmental factors, health policy, and health systems) on CVD. Although age-standardized mortality from CVD has decreased in many regions of the world, the absolute number of deaths continues to increase, with the majority now occurring in middle- and low-income countries. It is evident that multiple factors are causally related to CVD, including traditional individual level risk factors (mainly tobacco use, lipids, and elevated blood pressure) and societal level health determinants (eg, health systems, health policies, and barriers to CVD prevention and care). Both individual and societal risk factors vary considerably between different regions of the world and economic settings. However, reliable data to estimate CVD burden are lacking in many regions of the world, which hampers the establishment of nationwide prevention and management strategies. A 25% reduction in premature CVD mortality globally is feasible but will require better implementation of evidence-based policies (particularly tobacco control) and integrated health systems strategies that improve CVD prevention and management. In addition, there is a need for better health information to monitor progress and guide health policy decisions.

Keywords: blood pressure; cardiovascular diseases; epidemiology; risk factors; tobacco.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Global Burden of Disease*
  • Humans