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Cardiovascular Diseases

Alabama’s #8 Health Indicator

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are identified as the eighth most prominent health indicator in AL. It refers to a group of serious health conditions which can result in death and disability (CDC Heart Disease). CVD was the leading cause of death in AL for 2019 (America Health Rankings).

CVDs are caused by plaque buildup in an individual’s arteries. This causes the arteries to narrow over time, partially or totally blocking the blood flow. The four most common CVDs are coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart attacks, and stroke (CDC Heart Disease). While the other three conditions affect the heart, a stroke affects the brain and occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to an area of the brain. Stroke was the fourth leading cause of death in AL in 2019 (America Health Rankings).

Another common CVD condition that affects many American adults is hypertension (also called high blood pressure). According to CDC, an individual can be considered to have pre-hypertension based on the following: family history, weight, level of physical activity, diet, smoking, and having other co-existing diseases, such as diabetes (CDC Heart Disease). Many people in AL have hypertension or high cholesterol but are not aware of their condition. Unfortunately for many individuals, chest pain is the first reason for visiting the doctor.

Disproportionately Affected Populations

CVDs are considered an aging disease, which means your risk of receiving the diagnosis increases with age. White males have the highest risk of developing CVDs, followed by AA/black males, AA/black females, and Asian males (CDC Heart Disease). Individuals that live in food deserts (i.e., places with limited access to healthy and affordable food choices) and low-income  neighborhoods with little green space have higher rates of CVD morbidity (American Heart Association).

Geographic Variation

AL is within the CDC designated “Stroke Belt” that includes most of the southeast U.S. (i.e., Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.) These states had an age-adjusted stroke mortality rate that exceeded the national rate by 34 percent in 2018 (CDC Heart Disease).

Alabama Cardiovascular Diseases Highlights

Indicator data are collected from Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL (BCBS) Claims, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, AL Medicaid Agency, BRFSS, and the ADPH Center for Health Statistics Mortality Files. 

  • AL’s stroke mortality rate was 64.0 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2019.
  • Shelby County, located in the Northeastern Public Health District, had the highest stroke rate with 142.1 deaths per 100,000 persons.
  • According to BRFSS data, hypertension diagnosis is higher in populations with low income and low education attainment.

Health Indicators

CVDs are highly related to obesity and a lack of exercise. The following indicators have been selected for use in developing a benchmark or starting point for measuring the current state of and monitoring future changes regarding CVD in Alabama:


Page last updated: May 17, 2024