Cardiovascular Disease Affects 1 in 6 Filipinos - Here Are The Possible Reasons Why

    Cardiovascular Disease Affects 1 in 6 Filipinos - Here Are The Possible Reasons Why

    A 2020 report said that Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is associated with about 20% of total deaths and 35% of premature deaths, affecting about 1 in 6 Filipinos¹. And these figures might still be true, considering the fact that from January to November of 2021, the leading cause of death in the Philippines is Coronary Heart Disease². Here’s what you need to know about heart health among Filipinos.

    World Health Organization: Heart Disease in PH is the Worst in Southeast Asia³

    In 2020, the World Health Organization reported that the Philippines’ 2019 records regarding heart disease are the worst among Southeast Asian nations. That record showed that 120 out of every 100,000 Filipinos died of ischemic or coronary heart disease. That’s significantly higher than the 2015 record of 103 per 100,000 Filipinos.

    Coronary Heart Disease: The Leading Cause of Death in the Philippines²

    At the height of the pandemic in 2021, one might think that COVID-19 was the leading cause of death among Filipinos in that period. But, records say it was more to do with heart health.

    According to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), coronary heart disease or CHD, a type of cardiovascular disease involving clogged arteries, was the leading cause of death from January to November of 2021.

    Almost 18% of deaths were due to ischemic heart disease, which pertains to heart problems where the heart receives less oxygen due to narrowed (clogged) arteries.

    But, what are the possible reasons why heart disease remains to be the leading cause of death among Filipinos?

    Factors That Increase the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases Among Filipinos⁴

    What factors can negatively impact the heart health of Filipinos? A small study conducted in San Francisco, California, titled Cardiovascular Risk in the Filipino Community, asked Filipino participants about the factors that increase their risk for cardiovascular disease. They identified the following:


    Participants admitted that while they know that cigarette smoking is bad for heart health. Still, they accept it as a social norm. They also recognize that smoking is a big problem among Filipino youth.


    Stress, according to the participants, can cause them to partake in unhealthy habits. These habits include cigarette smoking as well as eating comfort foods that may be high in fat and sodium.

    Dietary Habits

    According to the participants, traditional Filipino cuisine is naturally high in salt. Among the common ingredients are patis (fish sauce), soy sauce, and bagoong (shrimp paste). Of course, there’s also the Filipinos’ affinity to fried foods, like lumpiang shanghai, chicharon, crispy pata, lechon, fried fish, and fried chicken.

    Lack of Physical Activity Due to Lack of Time

    The participants in the study said that the lack of time becomes a barrier to becoming physically active. On top of time constraints, they also identified fatigue and illness as barriers to physical activity.

    Socioeconomic Status

    Finally, the participants prioritized their socioeconomic needs over their personal health. This predisposes them to dismiss their health and devote less time to heart health improvement. Also, they have the tendency to react to acute health issues rather than focus on prevention.

    On top of these self-identified risk factors, let’s not forget that several diseases commonly affecting Filipinos can also predispose a person to poor heart health. These include hypertension and diabetes, which, according to records, are also among the leading causes of death in the country. There’s also obesity, which affects millions of Filipinos.

    Key Takeaways

    Coronary Heart Disease, particularly ischemic heart disease, is the leading cause of death from January to November of 2021. It accounts for 17.9% of the total deaths in the country for that period.
    Some of the potential risk factors increasing the Filipino’s risk of developing CVDs are cigarette smoking, a diet high in salt and fat, lack of time to be physically active, and prioritizing socioeconomic needs over health improvement.

    Learn more about Coronary Artery Disease here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


    1) Philippine and Philippine-American Health Statistics, 1994-2018 Chloe Sales, B.S., Bryant Lin, M.D., and Latha Palaniappan, M.D., M.S. Accessed,, August 16, 2022
    2) Heart disease remains top cause of death in PH in 2021: PSA, , Accessed August 16, 2022
    3) Heart disease in PH worst in Southeast Asia – WHO,, Accessed August 16, 2022
    4) Cardiovascular Risk in the Filipino Community,, Accessed August 16, 2022
    5) Everybody Needs to Act to Curb Obesity,,1998%20to%2036.6%25%20in%202019., Accessed August 16, 2022

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    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Sep 02
    Medically reviewed by Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC