Death rates for cardiovascular diseases including heart failure and heart attacks dropped by 27.8% from 1997 to 2007, according to a report released today by the American Heart Association. The stroke death rate fell, even more, 44.8%.
Better treatments — medicines and procedures and operations — are keeping more people with heart and circulatory problems alive, the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2011 Update found.
Still, 1 of every 2.9 deaths in the United States in 2007 was from cardiovascular diseases which include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, stroke, and all diseases of the circulatory system.
In addition to the lower death rate, the more good news is that the incidence of heart attacks is going down and the amount of heart failure is remaining stable, Veronique L. Roger, lead author of the report said in a telephone interview. There is no current update in this report on the prognosis for people with heart failure. The heart failure section of the report still bases its prognosis on the last report from the Framingham Heart Study which uses patient data from the 1990s. But Dr. Roger, who has conducted major research on heart failure, said that “unequivocally” the prognosis for someone diagnosed today with heart failure is better than it was in the previous decade. She is chair of the Health Sciences Research Department, Cardiovascular Diseases, at Mayo Clinic.
Living with heart and blood vessel problems is costly. The 2011 Update estimates the cost of cardiovascular disease and stroke in the U.S. for 2007 was $286.4 billion. The figure includes medical costs and loss of productivity from work.
Americans are not dying as fast from heart disease, but are increasing their risk for getting it. Over two-thirds (67.3%) of American adults are overweight and one-third are obese; almost one-third of children ages 2 to 19 are overweight and 16.3% are obese. Related to these two health issues is a third important one: metabolic syndrome, a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors now found in 34% of Americans.
We are continuing to put ourselves at risk for getting heart and circulatory diseases through improper diets, lack of exercise, and even the continuation of smoking. “As risk factors for coronary disease increase in a population, we also expect the future incidence of coronary disease to increase within the population. Control of risk factors is critical in the prevention of coronary disease,” said Edward K. Kasper, clinical director of cardiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital and co-author with me of Living Well with Heart Failure, the Misnamed, Misunderstood Condition. And Daniel Levy, director of the Framingham Heart Study says that with regard to heart failure, “in the majority of cases, it is preventable.” That is an amazing statement.
Dr. Roger urges people to take responsibility for their risk of getting cardiovascular diseases through personal “risk factor management.”
Most of us know what to do. We just need to start doing it.
We need to lose weight. Two out of three of us should lose weight! Even losing a little weight can improve your chance of avoiding heart disease. We need to control our blood pressure and cholesterol. One-third of adults have high blood pressure but only 48% of those aware of their condition have their blood pressure controlled to a safe level. We need to eat less sodium, less saturated fats, and NO trans fats. We need to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats. We need to exercise regularly, and some of that exercise should be vigorous enough to give our hearts a workout, which means breaking into a sweat or increasing our heart rate and starting to breathe faster and heavier. Stop smoking and if you have not started, don’t smoke.
I am going to renew my commitment to heart-healthy daily habits and I ask you to join me. A colleague on Twitter got in touch just yesterday to say she has put on some weight and do I have advice. Well, I have put on some weight, too. I need to do better at eating right every day and doing the right exercises every day. Let’s make this commitment together. As winter approaches, it is all the easier to fall into bad habits of not exercising, sitting too much, and eating too much. In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss our goals in more detail. Adopting these healthy daily habits is the best present you could give your loved ones this holiday season.