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Illustration by George Folz, © 2019 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System


Cardiology, a term derived from the Greek “cardia” (heart) and “logy” (study of), is a branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases (CVD).1 Health conditions that involve the heart or circulatory system are categorized under CVD. Common examples of CVD include high blood pressure (i.e., hypertension), high cholesterol (i.e., dyslipidemia), and deep vein thrombosis. Heart disease, in contrast, refers to disorders of only the heart and is a subset of CVD. Common examples of heart disease are angina pectoris, arrhythmias, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. Table 5-1 includes a list of other CVDs and conditions related to the heart that readers may have heard of previously.2,3

Table 5-1Common Cardiovascular Diseases

Roughly 122 million Americans 20 years of age and older, or 48% of the adult population in the United States, had one or more form of CVD in 2016.4 Furthermore, approximately 47% of all Americans have at least one of three key risk factors for developing CVD: elevated blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and/or smoking.5 The prevalence of CVD increases with age in both men and women and is the leading cause of death in the United States.2 The majority of CVD-attributable deaths are due to coronary heart disease (43%), followed by stroke (17%), hypertension (11%), and heart failure (9%).2 Annual data collected by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute demonstrate that CVD contributes to more deaths in the United States than all forms of cancer.6 Unfortunately, many Americans are not aware of this important fact. For example, a survey conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) found that only 56% of women were aware that heart disease was the leading cause of death among females.7 Globally, CVD is also the leading cause of death.8 Worldwide projections estimate that CVD will account for ...

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