Progress in cardiovascular disease-related deaths, but more can be done

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 - Tim Casey
Tim Casey, Executive Editor

Recent treatment advances have led to steep declines in cardiovascular disease-related death rates in the past decade. Still, heart disease and stroke accounted for the most deaths worldwide in 2013, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) report released on Dec. 16.

From 2003 to 2013, death rates attributed to cardiovascular disease declined 28.8 percent and the relative rate of stroke death decreased by 33.7 percent. However, 801,000 people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2013, while more than 370,000 people died from stroke and 129,000 people died from stroke.

The costs remain high, too. The estimated annual costs for cardiovascular disease and stroke were $316.6 billion compared with $88.7 billion for all cancers.

The AHA’s writing group members suggested several, evidence-based ways to improve cardiovascular health. They recommended an individual, targeted approach based on lifestyle and treatments, an approach in which health systems encourage and reward providers and patients to improve health behaviors and health factors and a population-based approach that targets lifestyle modifications and treatments in schools, workplaces, local communities and states.

Modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease include an improved diet, physical activity, quitting smoking and losing weight. Results of the analysis showed progress is being made on a few fronts, although more work needs to be done.

For instance, 16.9 percent of adults smoked in 2014, down from 24.1 percent in 1998. Meanwhile, 5.6 percent of high school students smoked in 2013 compared with 36.4 percent in 1997. However, the researchers said nearly one-third of coronary heart disease deaths were attributable to smoking or secondhand smoke.

Further, from 2003 to 2012, the proportion of adults who had poor scores on the dietary metric for cardiovascular health decreased from 50.3 percent to 41.0 percent. Among children between 5 and 19 years old, the declines were even more stark: from 69.2 percent to 54.6 percent.

Still, the researchers mentioned the numbers could be much better. In fact, only 47.0 percent of women and 53.2 percent of men met the current aerobic physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or an equivalent combination each week. A survey of adolescents found that 15.2 percent said they were inactive during the previous week.

“We need to maintain our vigor and resolve in promoting good cardiovascular health through lifestyle and recognition and treatment of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking,” AHA President Mark Creager, MD, director of the Heart and Vascular Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., said in a news release. “We’ve made progress in the fight against cardiovascular disease, but the battle is not won.”

Tim Casey
-Executive Editor