Heart Research

February 22, 1974

Report Outline
Debate Over Causes of Heart Disease
Advances in Treating Coronary Problems
Directions in Cardiovascular Research
Special Focus

Debate Over Causes of Heart Disease

Alarm Over Large Number of Heart Fatalities

Despite considerable progress in heart research, including the development of life-saving drugs and new surgical techniques, there has been little change in the overall rate of fatalities for the past decade. Particularly alarming has been the increase in heart-related deaths among younger men and women.a The executive board of the World Health Organization reported in 1969: “Coronary heart disease has reached enormous proportions, striking more and more at younger subjects. It will result in the coming years in the greatest epidemic mankind has faced unless we are able to reverse the trend by concentrated research into its cause and prevention.”

Cardiovascular diseases—diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels—already kill more than one million Americans a year and are responsible for more than half (53 per cent) of the deaths in the United States. It is estimated that 27 million persons in this country suffer from one or another of these diseases which, besides the toll they take in human life and well-being, account for more than $40 billion a year in medical expenses and lost income.

Heart attacks constitute the major cause of death among cardiovascular disorders, killing more than 675,000 Americans in a recent year. Most heart attacks can be traced to atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty substances, or lipids, along the inner walls of the arteries leading to the heart. Closely connected with atherosclerosis is hypertension or high blood pressure. More than 22 million Americans suffer from hypertension, according to the American Heart Association, and more than half of them have hypertension heart disease. Elevated blood pressure frequently leads to fatal or disabling strokes.

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