The most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.
The effects of behavioural risk factors may show up in individuals as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight and obesity.
At the individual level, for prevention of first heart attacks and strokes, individual health-care interventions need to be targeted to those at high total cardiovascular risk or those with single risk factor levels above traditional thresholds, such as hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.
The former approach is more cost-effective than the latter and has the potential to substantially reduce cardiovascular events.
These are a reflection of the major forces driving social, economic and cultural change – globalization, urbanization and population ageing.
Rheumatic fever is caused by an abnormal response of the body to infection with streptococcal bacteria, which usually begins as a sore throat or tonsillitis in children.
Rheumatic fever mostly affects children in developing countries, especially where poverty is widespread.
In addition, drug treatment of diabetes, hypertension and high blood lipids may be necessary to reduce cardiovascular risk and prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Health policies that create conducive environments for making healthy choices affordable and available are essential for motivating people to adopt and sustain healthy behaviour.