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Heart Disease and Its Causes

Heart disease is affected by a number of individual behaviors and environmental issues, but it is also affected by genetic factors, family history, and even cultural influences as well. This can be determined by examining the family histories of those suffering from heart problems and by analyzing statistics across different cultural groupings. Some people are simply prone to cardiovascular diseases, and one of the reasons is their family or cultural background.

Among the cardiovascular diseases to be considered are high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, rheumatic fever and consequent heart disease, congenital cardiovascular defects, and congestive heart failure. Some 60 million American shave one or more types of this disease, and this means one in five females and one in three males. Cardiovascular disease claims some 953,000 lives per years, and this constitutes 41.2 percent of all deaths. Since 1900, CVD has been the number one killer in the United States every year except in 1918 when the influenza outbreak killed more. Death rates from CVD have in fact been climbing ("Cardiovascular Diseases").

There are variations in the incidence of CVD among different ethnic and racial groups and in the severity of the problem when it does emerge. The problem also runs in some families, of course, and may show a genetic predisposition toward heart disease among certain people. The influence of race and ethnic background on these family groups may also be strong.

White Americans constitute the main group in this country and so can serve as the base against which to measure variations. The various forms of cardiovascular disease stood as the major cause of death in this group in 1996 by almost double the next major cause, cancer, with 35.5 percent of all deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease. Coronary artery disease has been associated with several risk factors--heredity, age, sex, hypertensio


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