Cardiovascular Disease Increasing in Developing World

Cardiovascular Disease Increasing in Developing World

Around the world, cardiovascular disease represents the leading cause of death. Cardiovascular disease can take may forms, including coronary heart disease (heart blockages due to plaque build up or atherosclerosis), stroke, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle weakness) and some other heart infections.

In particular, South Asia, China and India are experiencing an increased cardiovascular disease burden, though differences exist in each location.

For example, in China, coronary disease due to plaque build up is less prevalent, but stroke prevalence is much higher compared with most Western developed countries. In contrast, cardiovascular disease death rates in India is substantially higher than compared with those reported in China over a similar time period—and may relate to a truly higher cardiovascular disease risk in India.

Deaths due to cardiovascular disease are almost double for South Asians living in their home country compared to their counterparts in developed countries. For example, for South Asians in living in California, the proportion of deaths due to cardiovascular disease from 1985 to 1990 was 23% for men and 20% for women, compared to 41% and 37% in urban South Asia respectively.

The incidence of cardiovascular disease is rapidly increasing in the rural areas as well.

Unfortunately, although the projections for cardiovascular disease in developing countries are alarming, there is a paucity of high-quality data about cardiovascular disease (or indeed even about risk factor levels) from many of these countries.

Changing risk factors

Traditional risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Older age
  • Men are at a higher risk
  • Family history of early heart disease
  • Smoking or using tobacco products
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle


The sharp rise in cardiovascular disease in developing countries is strongly associated with:

  • Hypertension and smoking were identified as the most important risk factors for atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease
  • Overweight (westernization of diet) with changing lifestyle (urbanization: with less exercise and activity with possible association with pollution and air quality).
  • Surge in incidence of diabetes and pre-diabetes. (Data from India suggest a possible particular susceptibility of South Asians to the plaque build up effects of these conditions).

What can be done

Fortunately, dietary and exercise interventions are a beneficial strategy for atherosclerosis prevention and seem to significantly improve vascular changes, especially at an early age.

Make simple changes:

  • Quit smoking
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly — at least once a month. Also have annual tests for diabetes and cholesterol. If any tests come back borderline high or high, then you will need to checked more regularly. And if you have a family history of heart disease or diabetes, then get yourself checked early and even more often.
  • Develop healthy eating habits.  Minimize intake of processed foods.
  • Exercise —  even just walking — for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight by eating a better diet and developing and sticking to an exercise plan.

To learn more about various heart conditions and treatments from short, easy-to-understand videos, download the free CardioVisual app for iOS or for Android.


  • Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from cardiovascular than from any other cause.
  • An estimated 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2012, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.
  • Over three quarters of cardiovascular disease deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The incidence of new patients with cardiovascular disease is rising at an alarming pace in developing countries.