Heart Disease and Stroke Deaths Fall, but Costs Remain High

December 16, 2010

Deaths from heart disease and stroke declined during the past decade, but the number of inpatient cardiovascular procedures is on the rise, says the AHA.

Although deaths from heart diseases declined 28% and the stroke death rate fell 45% from 1997 to 2007, the total number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures increased 27% during the same time period, according to data published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the American Heart Association report, researchers estimate that the total cost from heart disease and stroke in the United States for 2007 (including health expenditures and lost productivity) was $286 billion, which is higher than any other diagnostic group. In 2008, the estimated cost of all cancer and benign tumors was $228 billion, according to the article.

The trend calls for not only tracking diseases, but also tracking risk factors, said Véronique L Roger, MD, MPH, the report’s lead author, in a press release. “The mortality rate going down is good news; however, the fact that the burden of disease is so high indicates that we may have won a battle against mortality but have not won the war against heart disease and stroke."

Heart disease and stroke remain among the leading killers of Americans, together accounting for one in every three deaths each year, according to the report.

“We’re seeing a decline in deaths for both, particularly for stroke,” Roger said. “We can attribute much of that to improved quality of care, with heart and stroke patients getting the care and treatment they need to live longer. But unfortunately the prevalence of these diseases and their risk factors are still high. We need to energize our commitment to strategies that can prevent disease in the first place.”

Other findings from the report are as follows:

  • 33.5% of adults 20 years and older in America have high blood pressure; 80% are aware of their condition but less than half have their condition under control.
  • 23.1% of men and 18.1% of women are cigarette smokers; 19.5% of students in grades 9 through 12 report current tobacco use.
  • 15% of adults 20 and older have total serum cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher.
  • 8% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus; 36.8% have prediabetes.
  • More than 67% of adults are overweight.

During the past 30 years, the prevalence of obesity in children 6 to 11 years has increased from about 4% to more than 20%, according to the AHA, which plans to track progress toward its 2020 Impact Goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%.

The new version of the statistical update is the first to include a chapter detailing how family history and genetics play a role in cardiovascular disease risk. According to the update, parental history of an early heart attack doubles the risk of a heart attack in men and increases the risk in women by about 70%, and sibling history of heart disease doubles the odds of heart disease in both men and women.

“We make the point in the update that the increased risk of heart disease seen in persons with a family history of a heart attack is likely due in part to shared genetics,” Roger said. “The role of genetic factors in the risk of cardiovascular disease will likely be a growing part of the report in the future.”

To access the AHA report, click here.