Cardiovascular disease burdens overshadow mortality improvement

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While the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease declined over the past decade, the financial and quality of life burdens of heart disease and strokes remain significant, according to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2014 published online Dec. 18 in Circulation.

Although there were fewer deaths attributable to heart disease, it remains the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. The number of stroke deaths also declined between 2000 and 2010 and it ranks as the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Alan S. Go, MD, of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., and other members of the AHA’s Statistical Committee found that in 2010, one of every three U.S. deaths was due to cardiovascular disease. One person dies from a heart-related illness every 40 seconds. Nearly 84 million people live with cardiovascular disease, and it affects about half of all African Americans.

In addition to the morbidity and mortality burden, cardiovascular disease costs more than $315 billion a year, eclipsing the amount spent on cancer and benign neoplasms by more than $113 billion ($201.5 billion in cancer costs in 2008).

The committee also found that many Americans do not have healthy habits. About 30 percent say they do not engage in physical activity on a leisurely basis and less than 1 percent of adults and no children eat an “ideal healthy diet” as defined by the AHA. More than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.  

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are also fairly common in the U.S. About 43 percent of Americans have a total cholesterol level above 200 and about 33 percent are hypertensive. Diabetes affects 20 million Americans, or about 8 percent of adults.

Included in this year’s update is a new section on peripheral artery disease along with new data on the monitoring of cardiovascular health. Among other changes is a greater emphasis on evidence-based strategies to change behaviors, the committee noted.