Heart Disease and Stroke

Photo by Carolina Public Health Magazine

Why It Matters  |  What We Are Doing  |  Who Is Involved


Why It Matters

Globally, more people die from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) each year than from any other cause.  In 2008, about 17.3 million people died from CVDs, or about 30% of all global deaths.  About 7.3 million of these deaths were due to coronary heart disease and 6.2 million to stroke.  CVDs are projected to remain the single leading worldwide cause of death, reaching 23.3 million deaths annually by 2030.  Risk factors that can be modified through lifestyle changes include unhealthy diet, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and harmful alcohol use. An aging population and rising rates of obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension all contribute to escalating CVD deaths.

What We Are Doing

Faculty at UNC are discovering how race, gender, geography, lifestyle and health care access affect rates of heart disease and stroke, in order to develop better ways to prevent and treat this worldwide killer. Read More

UNC is working with nine other U.S. universities on a massive two-decade study to better understand  CVD and its risk factors within four communities in Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina.  U.S. deaths from CVD have dropped by more than half in the past 30 years, largely due to declines in smoking and improvements in treating high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  But it is uncertain whether these gains will continue, and more research on causes and prevention is critical.  This study and others are yielding enormous insights on the impact of race, socioeconomic differences, genetic factors and health problems such as gum disease on CVD risk.

Our faculty also studies the impact of air pollution, neighborhood design and environmental factors on CVD. In CVD care, we are finding ways to improve the access to and quality of acute stroke care, and exploring hidden risk factors in African Americans that may explain their much higher rates of CVD.

Who Is Involved

Our leaders in CVDs come from across the Gilling School, and include our world-class faculty, staff, post-docs and students. This overview only captures a fraction of the important research, teaching, and public service efforts in CVDs at the Gillings School. Please explore the individual leader descriptions to learn more about their work.