Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Over the past decades, heart disease rates declined in both men and women as they quit smoking and improved dietary habits. This improvement, however, has leveled off in recent years, most likely because of the dramatic increase in obesity in the U.S. and other industrialized nations.
The risks for coronary artery disease increase with age. About 85% of people who die from heart disease are over the age of 65.
Men have a greater risk for coronary artery disease and are more likely to have heart attacks earlier in life than women. Women’s risk for heart disease increases after menopause, and they are more likely to have angina than men.
Genetic Factors and Family History
Certain genetic factors increase the likelihood of developing important risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Heart disease tends to run in families. People whose parents or siblings developed heart disease at a younger age are more likely to develop it themselves.
Race and Ethnicity
Review Date: 05/05/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.