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Preventable heart disease deaths are on the rise in the US

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension are known collectively as cardiometabolic disease, which is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. According to a new study from Northwestern Medicine, the total number of deaths from cardiometabolic disease have been increasing in the United States since 2011.

The researchers found that while the overall rate of fatal heart disease decreased over time, the rate of decline slowed after 2010. Deaths from stroke and diabetes declined from 1999 to 2010, but then leveled off. Furthermore, deaths from high blood pressure increased between 1999 and 2017. 

“We know the majority of deaths attributable to cardiometabolic disease are preventable,” said study senior author Dr. Sadiya Khan. “Our findings make it clear that we are losing ground in the battle against cardiovascular disease. We need to shift our focus as a nation toward prevention to achieve our goal of living longer, healthier and free of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Khan said that until 2011, advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease led to significant declines in deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Since 2011, however, these rates have flattened and hypertension deaths continue to rise.

The team analyzed mortalities in the United States between 1999 and 2017 using data from the Centers for Disease Control’s Wide-Ranging Online Database for Epidemiological Research (WONDER). The study was specifically focused on deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension. 

Dr. Khan pointed out that the culprit could be the rise in obesity in recent decades. She explained that although this dataset did not allow for identification of the causes of the worsening cardiometabolic disease trends, the prevalence of obesity has risen significantly since 2011, and obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease.

“Cornerstones of good cardiometabolic health include maintaining a normal body weight, eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and not smoking,” said study first author Dr. Nilay Shah. “These actions are important to preventing heart disease, no matter your age.”

According to Dr. Khan, it is critical that the prevention of risk factors for cardiometabolic health begins early in life. This can be managed by consulting your doctor to assess any risk factors and engaging in heart-healthy behaviors.

Dr. Khan noted that policy makers need to develop public health prevention strategies to support Americans in eating a healthy diet and having safe places to exercise in their neighborhoods. Furthermore, increasing access to affordable health care and medications is needed to improve cardiovascular health equally across the population.

The study is published in the journal JAMA.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Monster e

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