Circ: Stroke & heart disease death down, but costs soar

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From 1997 to 2007, mortality rates linked to heart diseases declined by 27.8 percent and death from stroke decreased 44.8 percent, according to yearly statistics put forth by the American Heart Association outlining heart disease and stroke statistics, which was published Dec. 15 in Circulation.

"We're seeing a decline in deaths for both, particularly stroke," said the study's lead author Véronique L. Roger, MD, from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. "We can attribute much of that to improved quality of care, with heart and stroke patients getting the care and treatment they need to live longer. But unfortunately the prevalence of these diseases and their risk factors are still high. We need to energize our commitment to strategies that can prevent disease in the first place."

Interestingly, the number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures increased by 27 percent and the estimated costs from heart disease and stroke in the U.S. for 2007—both health expenditures and lost productivity—was $286 billion, what the researchers said is higher than any other diagnostic group. In 2008, the costs of all cancer and benign tumors were $228 billion.

"The mortality rate going down is good news; however, the fact that the burden of disease is so high indicates that we may have won a battle against mortality but have not won the war against heart disease and stroke," said Rogers.

The AHA 2011 statistics showed that:

  • 33.5 percent of adults age 20 years or older have high blood pressure and less than half have their condition under control;
  • 23.1 percent of men and 18.1 of women are cigarette smokers and 19.5 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 are tobacco users;
  • 15 percent of adults have serum cholesterol levels that are equal to 240 mg/dL or higher;
  • 8 percent of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and 36.8 percent have prediabetes;
  • Over 67 percent of the adult population is overweight; and
  • Childhood obesity, in children aged 6 to 11, has increased from 4 percent to over 20 percent over the past 30 years.

The AHA said that its goal by 2020 is to improve the health of Americans by 20 percent, including the reduction of CV-related death and stroke by 20 percent. These data align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data released this week that showed that stroke dropped to the fourth leading cause of death.

"Our baseline data related to the 2020 goal in the new update indicate the need for substantial progress in order to meet those goals in the next decade," Roger said. "To achieve improvements in cardiovascular health, all segments of the population will need to focus on improved cardiovascular health behaviors, particularly with regard to diet and weight, as well as increasing physical activity and further reducing the prevalence of smoking."