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Roundup: Heart Disease Now Projected to Surge, Affecting 61% of U.S. Adults by 2050; and More News

American Heart Association: At Least 6 in 10 U.S. Adults may have Some Type of Heart Disease by 2050

U.S. adults diagnosed with cardiovascular disease – the No. 1 cause of death -- will increase from 11.3 percent to 15 percent, or from 28 million to 45 million adults, by the year 2050, according to new projections from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Moreover, at least 6 in 10 U.S. adults, or more than 184 million people (61 percent), are expected to have some degree of heart disease because of major risk factors such has high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The AHA’s report comes as the leading non-profit organization marks its 100th anniversary. Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. since the inception of the AHA in 1924. Strokes, which are commonly caused by the same heart disease risk factors, is currently the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. “Together, they kill more people than all forms of cancers and chronic respiratory illnesses combined,” the AHA states.

Mehrdad Ghoreishi, M.D., co-director of Aortic Surgery and medical director of Cardiac Surgery Research at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.


The projections come from two new presidential advisories published this week in the AHA’s flagship peer-reviewed journal, Circulation – Forecasting the Burden of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in the United States Through 2050: Prevalence of Risk Factors and Disease and Forecasting the Economic Burden of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in the United States through 2050.

“We've been emphasizing this for a long time -- that the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. is currently heart disease,” said Mehrdad Ghoreishi, M.D., co-director of Aortic Surgery and medical director of Cardiac Surgery Research at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “It’s not cancer; it's not trauma; it’s not COVID. It's been heart disease for a long time. And investment in healthcare around heart disease, including prevention, early diagnosis and referral for treatment, and follow-up, will all pay off later.” 

Moreover, he said that more attention should be given to the increasing incidence of heart disease in women. “The mortality after any cardiac intervention is, unfortunately, higher in women in the U.S, compared with men of the same age. This is mostly because of associated comorbidities (underlying health issues), late diagnoses, and late referrals for intervention.”

Dr. Ghoreishi adds that people in general are living longer. “And therefore, we see patients in their 80s or 90s with heart disease,” he said. “Thanks to advancements in technology, and development of transcatheter and endovascular modalities, we can treat patients with heart disease safely, even in advanced age.”

Death rates from heart disease have been cut in half over the past 100 years, and deaths from stroke have been cut by a third since 1998, said the AHA volunteer chair of the advisories’ writing groups, Karen E. Joynt Maddox, M.D., in a statement.

“Yet, these are still leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.,” she states. “So, in analyzing the data for these advisories, we set out to learn just what we may expect over the next 30 years, and to identify specific issues that need to be addressed to ensure that we continue our forward progress. Armed with these findings, we can take steps to turn the tide on this dire forecast.”

Here are some of the key findings from the AHA’s report:

  • High blood pressure will increase from 51 percent to 61 percent, and since high blood pressure is a type of cardiovascular disease (CVD) , that means more than 184 million people will have a clinical diagnosis of CVD by 2050, compared to 128 million in 2020.
  • Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, (but not including high blood pressure) will increase from 11 percent to 15 percent, from 28 million to 45 million adults.
  • Stroke prevalence will nearly double from 10 million to almost 20 million adults.
  • Obesity will increase from 43 percent to 61 percent, impacting more than 180 million people.

Despite the predicted increase for heart disease prevalence, there are some positive trends that the AHA reported. More adults in the U.S. are embracing the healthy behaviors of the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8.

The AHA report also predicts that:

  • Inadequate physical inactivity rates will improve from 33.5 percent to 24 percent.
  • Cigarette smoking rates will drop nearly by half, from 15.8 percent to 8.4 percent.
  • While more than 150 million people will have a poor diet, that is at least a slight improvement from 52.5 percent to 51.1 percent.

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Can Reverse Cell Aging – Beginning at Any Age, Says New Research

One of several risk factors for heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death, is age. But new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found that following healthy lifestyle habits and managing risk factors can reduce a person’s risk for heart disease and death from any cause -- regardless of age.

The healthy lifestyle habits — which the American Heart Association (AHA) refers to as “Life’s Essential 8” — were associated with study participants having a younger biological age, meaning that their cells were healthier compared to most people at their chronological age.

The AHA’s “Life’s Essential 8” is a checklist of healthy lifestyle measures that drive optimal cardiovascular health. The 8-item scoring tool includes healthy sleep, not smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet, healthy body weight, and healthy levels of blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Researchers examined data for 5,682 adults, more than half of whom were women (56 percent), and with an average age of 56. They were enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing, large, multigenerational research project aimed at identifying risk factors for heart disease. Using interviews, physical exams and laboratory tests, all participants were assessed using the Life’s Essential 8 tool.

The tool scores cardiovascular health between 0-100 (with 100 being the best) using a composite of four behavioral measures (dietary intake, physical activity, hours slept per night and smoking status) and four clinical measurements (body mass index, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure).

Each study participant was also assessed using four tools that estimate biological age based on DNA methylation, which regulates gene expression, and a fifth tool that assesses a person’s genetic tendency towards accelerated biological aging. Participants were followed for 11 to14 years for new-onset cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular death or death from any cause.

For each 13-point increase in an individual’s Life’s Essential 8 score, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease for the first time was reduced by about 35 percent, death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 36 percent and death from any cause was reduced by 29 percent, according to the AHA.

“Our study findings tell us that no matter what your actual age is, better heart-healthy behaviors and managing heart disease risk factors were associated with a younger biological age and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, death from heart disease and stroke and death from any cause,” said Jiantao Ma, Ph.D., senior study author and an assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, in a statement.

Mediterranean Diet Associated with 23% Lower Risk of Death from Heart Disease, Cancer, Study Finds

U.S. women who followed a predominantly plant-based Mediterranean diet had up to a 23 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer, according to a new study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been confirmed in numerous studies, but there is “limited long-term data of its effects in U.S. women and little understanding about why the diet may reduce risk of death,” states a news release on the new research.

The Mediterranean diet, which is highly rated by dietitians, focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes -- but makes allowances for lean proteins from fish and poultry. It strongly restricts red meat, overly processed meats and sugary drinks. The U.S. government’s dietary guidelines, also known as My Plate, focus on plant-based options.

In the new study, research followed more than 25,000 initially healthy U.S. women for up to 25 years. Results are published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). “The study investigators evaluated a panel of approximately 40 biomarkers representing various biological pathways and clinical risk factors,” states the news release.

The study’s participants are part of the ongoing Women's Health Study at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, which was initiated in 1993.

“For women who want to live longer, our study says watch your diet!” said senior author Samia Mora, MD, a cardiologist and the director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at the Brigham, in a statement. “The good news is that following a Mediterranean dietary pattern could result in about one quarter reduction in risk of death over more than 25 years with benefit for both cancer and cardiovascular mortality, the top causes of death in women (and men) in the US and globally.”

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