Health and Family

Cardiovascular Disease

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Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, and stroke is still the fourth most common cause. However, deaths due to these two deadly cardiovascular diseases have been declining in Virginia for over a decade, and state intervention is targeting further decreases.

Why is This Important?

Nearly 600,000 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases each year -- that's 68 deaths every hour. The economic impact of cardiovascular diseases on our nation's health care system continues to grow as the population ages.

How is Virginia Doing?

Cardiovascular Death Rate. See text for explanation.

Virginia's death rate from diseases of the circulatory system has fallen every year since 2004 (and earlier). After adjusting for differences in age, in 2013 there were 211 deaths per 100,000 people in Virginia and 223 in the nation, giving Virginia the 25th lowest rate in the country. Minnesota again had the lowest age-adjusted rate at 168 per 100,000. Virginia's rate has consistently been lower than Maryland (224), North Carolina (224), and Tennessee (267).

Cardiovascular Death Rate, By Region. See text for explanation.

Cardiovascular death rates also continue to fall across much of the state. In 2013, the Northern (157), Valley (200), and Hampton Roads (213) regions of Virginia had the lowest age-adjusted death rate for major cardiovascular disease, followed closely by the Central region with 215 deaths. The Southside region again had the highest rate in 2013, with 274 deaths per 100,000 people.

What Influences Cardiovascular Disease?

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and prediabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, and being physically inactive are the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The emerging consensus among scientists indicates that no single factor (e.g., eating a diet high in saturated fats or having high levels of LDL cholesterol) is responsible for heart disease; rather, that a combination of factors -- different for each individual -- may lead to heart disease and strokes.

What is the State's Role?

The state can help educate the public about the importance of disease prevention through regular check-ups. Government can also assist by giving health care practitioners timely updates in guidelines for treating patients at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Additional measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control include:

  • establishing policies for emergency medical services to treat stroke as an emergency
  • raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke and the need to call 911 immediately
  • helping hospitals make systems changes that will help them adhere to national guidelines and recommendations for victims of heart disease and strokes.
Updated August 22, 2016
Age-adjusted Cardiovascular Death Rates, by State Age-adjusted Cardiovascular Death Rates, by Virginia Region

State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.

Data and Definitions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. CDC WONDER On-line Database.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Report. Deaths: Final Data for 2013

What Causes Heart Disease?, National Institutes of Health

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link, New York Times, March 2014

State-level data:

  • Cardiovascular deaths (categories I00-I99) includes deaths of the circulatory system:
    Acute rheumatic fever, Chronic rheumatic heart diseases, Hypertensive diseases, Ischaemic heart diseases, Pulmonary heart disease and diseases of pulmonary circulation, Other forms of heart disease, Cerebrovascular diseases, Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries, Diseases of veins, lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes, not elsewhere classified, Other and unspecified disorders of the circulatory system.

Regional Data:

  • Deaths include major cardiovascular diseases, categories I00-I78, which excludes Other and unspecified disorders of the circulatory system.
    Virginia Center for Health Statistics; City County Profiles
  • Population data provided by Bridged-Race Census population prepared by NCHS:
  • Regional age-adjusted rates computed by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.

At a Glance:
Cardiovascular Disease
in Virginia

Performance Trend:  Trend is iimproving slightly.
State Influence:

National Ranking: 25th in the nation for cardiovascular deaths (2013 data). Rates continue to fall throughout much of the United States.

Virginia by Region: The Northern region consistently has the lowest death rates from cardiovascular disease.

Related Agency Measures
State Programs & Initiatives

The Virginia Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Project funds local community-based projects focused on the prevention and control of heart attacks and strokes. 

Additional Information

Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Through its Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, CDC translates prevention research into public health practice and provides national and state leadership to help reduce the burden of heart disease and stroke.

Did You Know?

Women are at just as much risk for developing heart disease and dying from cardiovascular problems as men. Check out an informative Fact Sheet from the Centers for Disease Control.