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Heart Disease & Stroke

Diseases of the Heart and Stroke: Illinois’ Leading Killers

What Do the Numbers Tell Us?

Heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth leading cause of death, respectively, and also a major cause of disability in Illinois. In 2021, there were 26,280 deaths in Illinois due to heart disease and 6,768 deaths due to stroke. Deaths due to heart disease and stroke combined (33,048) represented almost 27% of all deaths in Illinois in 2021 (125,102).

Fast Facts

  • Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women.
  • Heart disease and stroke are the second leading cause of physical disability in Illinois.
  • From 2013 – 2018, Black Americans had the highest prevalence of high blood pressure [hypertension] of any race/ethnicity group.
  • Living in a rural area with fewer health services and fewer healthy food choices is also a risk factor.
  • High blood pressure [hypertension] is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease and causes more than 10 million deaths worldwide each year.
  • Heart disease deaths in Illinois compared to the rest of the country:
    • United States – 165.0 deaths per 100,000 population
    • Illinois – 165.3 deaths per 100,000 population (rank 21st of 50 states) 

Prevention and Disease Management

Prevention efforts coupled with effective disease management can reduce the incidence of heart disease and strokes, cut the number of deaths from these diseases, and relieve some of the disability suffered by heart disease and stroke survivors.

In 2023, the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Cardiovascular Health Program was awarded funding from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address cardiovascular disease through the mitigation of social barriers.

Evidence links non-medical factors, including systemic racism and the lack of economic opportunities, with poor health outcomes and increased mortality rates, all of which are preventable. Factors such as poverty, inadequate housing, poor health care or lack of access to health care, and social conditions, known as social determinants of health, contribute to long-standing disparities and health inequities. These social conditions contribute to the increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease in the United States and in Illinois. In Illinois, the populations with the greatest social vulnerability are often those with the highest burden of cardiovascular disease. In Illinois it is the non-Hispanic Black population and the rural population (all races and ethnicities) where these social vulnerabilities and cardiovascular burdens are the greatest. 

To combat these social conditions, IDPH aims to implement evidence-based strategies contributing to the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease in populations disproportionately at risk. Given the importance of  health equity, these activities will also address social and economic factors to help communities and health systems respond to social determinants present in Illinois communities and to offer those at risk or burdened with cardiovascular disease the best health outcomes possible.

To address social conditions to prevent and to treat cardiovascular disease, IDPH collaborates with its partner agencies, colleagues, health systems, local health departments, and social services providers to:

  • Track and monitor clinical, social services, and support needs measures shown to improve health and wellness, health care quality, and to identify patients at highest risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Implement team-based care to prevent and to reduce cardiovascular risk with a focus on hypertension and high cholesterol prevention detection, control, and management through the mitigation of social support barriers to improve health outcomes.
  • Link community resources and clinical services that support referrals, self-management, and lifestyle change to address social determinants that put priority populations at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

IDPH is working to develop and to implement the Better Together: Illinois Department of Public Health – Cardiovascular Health Learning Collaborative. This learning collaborative will bring together public health systems, health care providers, and community leaders to implement evidence-based practices for cardiovascular disease prevention, detection, control, and management among priority populations. The learning collaborative is expected to facilitate communication and the exchange of ideas to address social barriers and to improve cardiovascular health.