The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, the arteries, the capillaries and the veins. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in industrialized countries, accounting for up to 36% of all deaths in Spain in 2007. Among cardiovascular diseases, heart disease (also called myocardial infarction or angina pectoris) is the most deadly disease in men, and cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) cause the majority of deaths in women.
In 1948 one of the largest epidemiological studies to determine causal factors of cardiovascular disease started in the US, in a small town near Boston, Framingham. The study included 5209 residents who have been followed until now. This and similar studies have allowed us to know the risk factors for cardiovascular disease:
- lipids (high total cholesterol or LDL and low HDL cholesterol)
- a sedentary lifestyle
Anti-smoking laws can reduce the number of cases of acute myocardial infarction by 8-20%
Controlling these risk factors is a key element in the prevention of these diseases. The challenge is there for each of us as individuals, for health systems and governments. We can all contribute to the prevention of these diseases. Individuals by adopting a healthy lifestyle, the health system by diagnosing and controlling risk factors, and governments by ensuring equity of access to health care and by promoting anti-smoking laws that, as proven in countries in which they have been implemented, can reduce the number of cases of acute myocardial infarction by 8-20%.