AHA stats: Risk factors for CVD, stroke may overtake treatment strides

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While much is being done to curb heart disease and improve patient well being with preventive care, a statistical brief released by the American Heart Association (AHA) Dec. 15 got to the heart of the matter, outlining that U.S. heart health needs some strategic reworking.

In AHA’s, “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2012 Update,” published in Circulation, the committee defined ideal cardiovascular health using seven factors: smoking status, weight, physical activity, healthy diet, cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting glucose levels.

At least 94 percent of U.S. adults have at least one of these factors at a “poor” level and 38 percent have at least three of these factors.

While cardiovascular disease-related deaths fell 30.6 percent between 1998 and 2008, the disease burden remains high. In fact, 2008 mortality data showed that CVD accounted for 32.8 percent of the 2,471,983 total deaths—one of every three deaths in the U.S.

The culprit could be the bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyles people maintain. For example, between 1971 and 2004, the average calorie consumption increased 22 percent in women and 10 percent in men. Additionally, the authors found that 33 percent of adults engage in no aerobic leisure-time physical activity.

Based on the 2008 data, the writing committee concluded that each day more than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease, an average of one death every 39 seconds. Of those who suffered from CVD in 2008, 150,000 were above the age of 65 years, and 33 percent of these CVD-related deaths occurred prior to the age of 75 years. While CVD-related deaths were common, coronary heart disease caused nearly one of every six deaths in the U.S. in 2008, and each year 785,000 Americans will experience a new coronary attack.

Stroke is another national epidemic that claims the lives of many each year; however, the rate of stroke death dropped 34.8 percent between 1998 and 2008. The authors said this decrease was most likely due to better treatment options for acute stroke.

As the disease burden continues to rise, so do the costs associated with its prevention and care. From 2007 to 2008 the price tag for cardiovascular care increased more than $11 billion and the costs of CVD and stroke in the U.S. was $297.7 billion alone. CVD and stroke accounted for 16 percent of total health expenditures in 2008.

These costs may also be attributed to the increase in the total number of cardiovascular operations and procedures, which increased by 22 percent between 1999 and 2009.

“By monitoring health, as well as disease, the update provides information essential to public health initiatives, patient care and for people to take personal responsibility for their health and for their lives,” said Véronique L. Roger, MD, MPH, lead author of the brief and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

Although CVD-related deaths may be declining there is still a long road ahead. To help thwart off this disease burden, the American Heart Association has launched the million hearts campaign, whose goal is to improve CV health of Americans by 20 percent and reduce CVD and stroke deaths by 20 percent by 2020.

As a way to stave off the high costs associated with cardiovascular disease, policy makers should focus on preventive health, starting with adolescents and young adults as a mean to improve the overall health in the U.S. “Moving people who are at poor health to make small changes in their behavior and reach intermediate health is a step in the right direction that can make a big difference,” Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, co-author of the statistical update and chair of the department of preventive medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago summed.