Roundup: Higher Rates of Heart-Health Risk Factors Projected; Smoking Linked to 30% of All Cancer Deaths; and Study on Long COVID in Kids, Teens

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August 12, 2022


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Projected Higher Rates of Heart Disease Risk Factors to Impact Minorities Most, Researchers Find

By the year 2060, projected rates of cardiovascular risk factors and heart disease will increase significantly in the U.S., and the impact will be felt disproportionately by minority groups, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The researchers analyzed projected rates for four major cardiovascular risk factors: diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia (elevated cholesterol or fats in the blood), and obesity. They also looked at projected rates of ischemic heart disease, heart failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Among the general U.S. population, all four risk factors are expected to increase from 2025 to 2060, with the largest percentage increase in diabetes (39 percent increase to 55 million people), followed by dyslipidemia (28 percent increase to 126M), hypertension (25 percent increase to 162M) and obesity (18 percent increase to 126M).

The researchers found that stroke (34 percent to 15M) and heart failure (33 percent to 13M) were the highest projected increases in rates of cardiovascular diseases, followed by ischemic heart disease (31 percent to 29M) and heart attack (17 percent to 16M).

“Our analysis projects that that the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and diseases will continue to rise with worrisome trends,” said James L. Januzzi Jr., M.D., senior author of the study who is cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Hutter Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “These striking projections will disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority populations in the U.S. Understanding these results will hopefully inform future public health policy efforts and allow us to implement prevention and treatment measures in an equitable manner.”

The researchers reviewed data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, including projections for the years 2025 to 2060. They combined census counts with the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and related diseases based on the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. From these estimates, they projected the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors based on sex (male and female), age, and race and ethnicity (Asian, Black, Hispanic, White and other).

The Black population is projected to experience the highest heart disease risk factor burden, among all race and ethnicity increases. Heart disease rate increases are projected to have the highest impact on the Black and Hispanic populations.

The study concludes: “Targeted efforts toward improved screening and equitable access to quality healthcare in populations with the greatest growth in cardiovascular risk factors or disease would be expected to have a substantial impact to reduce future cardiovascular risk …”


New Report: Smoking Linked to 30% of All Cancer Deaths in 2019

A new study from researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that nearly 123,000 cancer deaths, or about 30 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths in 2019, were the result of cigarette smoking – the single, most preventable cause of cancer.

The rates of cigarette smoking have substantially declined over the past several decades — from 42 percent in 1965 to 14 percent in 2019. But the COVID-19 pandemic has had a concerning impact on access to tobacco products. For the first time in two decades, cigarette sales increased in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The new research was published in the International Journal of Cancer. Cancers linked to smoking included cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, lungs and bronchus among others. Smoking is responsible for about 80 percent of lung cancer cases.

“Our study provides further evidence that smoking continues to be a leading cause of cancer-related death and to have a huge impact on the economy across the U.S.,” said Dr. Farhad Islami, senior scientific director for cancer disparity research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study, in a statement. “We must continue to help individuals to quit using tobacco, prevent anyone from starting, and work with elected officials at all levels of government for broad and equitable implementation of proven tobacco control interventions.”

Researchers also focused on “potential years of life lost” – or PYLL – and lost earnings among adults aged 25 to 79. They found smoking-attributable cancer deaths resulted in 2.2 million years of PYLL and nearly $21 billion in annual lost earnings. 

Researchers found that smoking-related death rates were the highest in states with weaker tobacco control policies and higher cigarette use, including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Years of life lost was 47 percent higher in these states, the study said.

Increasing the price of cigarettes through excise taxes is the single most effective policy for reducing smoking. In many states, state tobacco excise tax rate remains low, particularly in the states with the highest smoking rates,” said Ahmedin Jemal, M.D., senior vice president, surveillance & health equity science at the American Cancer Society, and senior author of the study. 


CDC: After COVID, Children and Teens Face Higher Risks of Blood Clots, Type 1 Diabetes and Other Health Issues

U.S. Children and teens, aged 0–17 years, who have been infected with COVID-19 are at a high risk for pulmonary embolism, heart problems, kidney failure, and type 1 diabetes, according to a new report from researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study is considered the first major insight into the effects of “long COVID” — or symptoms that “are new, recurring, or ongoing” after initial infection — among children and adolescents, the CDC said. A pulmonary embolism is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot.

The researchers reviewed electronic health records of nearly 800,000 U.S. children and adolescents who had been infected with COVID from 2020 through 2022, and compared their date with that of nearly 2.5 million children who had not been diagnosed with COVID during the same time period.

They found that young people who had been diagnosed with COVID were about two times more likely to experience a blood clot in the lung—and nearly two times more likely to be diagnosed with myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle; or cardiomyopathy, a disease that makes difficult for the heart to deliver blood to the rest of the body; or blood clots in veins. The conditions were present in the year following initial illness from COVID.

They also found that children and teens were about 1.3 times as likely to experience kidney failure and type 1 diabetes, which is when the pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin.  Type 1 diabetes typically appears in adolescence.

The CDC urges all parents to have their children over the age of 6 months vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent these long-term symptoms or serious illnesses.

“COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination for all eligible persons aged 6 months and older, are critical to preventing COVID-19 infection and subsequent illness, and reducing the public health impact of post-COVID symptoms and conditions among persons aged 0–17 years,” the CDC study concludes.

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