Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Cardiovascular risk factor trends and potential for reducing coronary heart disease mortality in the United States of America

Simon Capewell, Earl S Ford, Janet B Croft, Julia A Critchley, Kurt J Greenlund & Darwin R Labarthe


To examine the potential for reducing cardiovascular risk factors in the United States of America enough to cause age-adjusted coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality rates to drop by 20% (from 2000 baseline figures) by 2010, as targeted under the Healthy People 2010 initiative.


Using a previously validated, comprehensive CHD mortality model known as IMPACT that integrates trends in all the major cardiovascular risk factors, stratified by age and sex, we calculated how much CHD mortality would drop between 2000 and 2010 in the projected population of the United States aged 25–84 years (198 million). We did this for three assumed scenarios: (i) if recent risk factor trends were to continue to 2010; (ii) success in reaching all the Healthy People 2010 risk factor targets, and (iii) further drops in risk factors, to the levels already seen in the low-risk stratum.


If age-adjusted CHD mortality rates observed in 2000 remained unchanged, some 388 000 CHD deaths would occur in 2010. First scenario: if recent risk factor trends continued to 2010, there would be approximately 19 000 fewer deaths than in 2000. Although improved total cholesterol, lowered blood pressure in men, decreased smoking and increased physical activity would account for some 51 000 fewer deaths, these would be offset by approximately 32 000 additional deaths from adverse trends in obesity and diabetes and in blood pressure in women. Second scenario: If Healthy People 2010 cardiovascular risk factor targets were reached, approximately 188 000 CHD deaths would be prevented. Scenario three: If the cardiovascular risk levels of the low-risk stratum were reached, approximately 372 000 CHD deaths would be prevented.


Achievement of the Healthy People 2010 cardiovascular risk factor targets would almost halve the predicted CHD death rates. Additional reductions in major risk factors could prevent or postpone substantially more deaths from CHD.