Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women resulting in one in four deaths in the United States each year. Despite this evidence, there continues to be a need for greater education.
Heart disease is a general term for a group of disorders that – like a house – include the structure (muscle and valves), electrical conduction, and plumbing (blood vessels) of the heart. Cardiovascular disease focuses more on the blood vessels or arteries of the heart.
Looking at Egyptian mummies who died in 1203 BC (over 3,000 years ago), they demonstrated evidence of narrowed and thickened arteries in their body. This was later known as “hardening of the arteries” and currently, as atherosclerosis. The expected causation is that high-status Egyptians may have eaten a lot of fatty meals from cattle, ducks and geese.
In the 1400s, it is documented that Leonardo da Vinci investigated coronary arteries and that a professor of medicine actually described the reduced passage of blood within the coronary arteries. The 1700s documented “angina” or chest tightness, as a syndrome and in 1912, connected angina to atherosclerosis.
The American Heart Association was established in 1924 to expand cardiovascular disease awareness. A few years later, cardiologists began to use catheters to explore the coronary arteries, now known as a heart catheterization or coronary angiography. With the knowledge gained, it became an official “disease classification” which allowed it to become a statistical cause of death revealing its prevalence.
The 1950s brought new insights into the cause of atherosclerosis with findings of “good” (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol and observations that cardiovascular disease was less prevalent in some Mediterranean populations where people consumed a lower-fat diet.
We now know that risk factors for cardiovascular disease include family history, cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. Technological advances have also been developed to treat atherosclerosis. Despite this, we still have much work to do in reducing cardiovascular events with an estimated 23.6 million people globally, projected to die from cardiovascular disease and Stroke in 2030.