Cardiovascular diseases have typically been limited to economically developed countries. Due to rapid changes in life style (urbanization, consumption of excessive amounts of animal-derived fat, a sedentary life style and smoking) as well as increasing life expectancy, as a result of the control of communicable diseases, the problem has spread to the previously less developed regions of Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and to certain sectors of the populations of the poor African countries..

Estimates of deaths in 2002

per 100,000 inhabitants in selected regions of the world.

Causes of death Europe SE Asia

Sub-Saharan  Africa

Communicable diseases, maternal and
perinatal conditions and nutritional disorders
(Deaths related to poverty)









Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD)




Total no of deaths/100,000  pop




Deaths due to CVD, as % of all deaths




Total deaths excluding
“deaths related to poverty”





Deaths due to CVD, as % of all deaths, excluding deaths
related to poverty





The table shows that deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa attributable to cardiovascular diseases may appear nlow, as compared to the total death rate. This is mainly due to the fact that the death rate in Sub-Saharan Africa that is related to poverty (communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions and malnutrition) is extremely high. As the last row shows, however, those segments of the population who have escaped the risk of dying from causes related to poverty are rapidly becoming victims of the “modern” cardiovascular diseases. Consequently, deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa now account for approximately a third of the deaths not directly related to poverty. And this is without taking into consideration the fact that many cases may have been unrecognised or misdiagnosed because of the lack of awareness and facilities to diagnose cardiovascular diseases.


In regards to cardio-vascular diseases the situation in Ethiopia does not appear to differ substantially f,rom the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the lack of awareness and diagnostic facilities, a large number of deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases are either undiagnosed or under-reported.  A shocking revelation about this fact was the [recent] study conducted in Addis Ababa, where a post mortem examination of persons who died suddenly and unexpectedly showed that nearly 70% died of cardiovascular conditions. Our own experience of practice in the country in the past years corroborate this statement and we believe that there is ample evidence to indicate that problems of the heart and blood vessels, including their precursors - high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and high blood cholesterol levels- are already major problems among the educated and higher income sectors of the population and will rapidly involve an increasing proportion of the inhabitants of the country, even before the health problems of poverty are controlled.  

Demographics of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has a population of nearly 77 million people, of which approximately 70%  live in the countryside. These inhabitants are by far less affected by cardiovascular diseases. 30% of the population is living in urban areas, of which 50% are considered to belong to the  middle class. People belonging to the middle- and upper class, though small in number, are the most affected by cardiovascular diseases.

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