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The US is losing ground in the battle against heart disease, study finds

The US is losing ground in the battle against heart disease: Obesity is driving up deaths from heart attack, stroke and diabetes, study suggests

  • The proportion of deaths caused by heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke – cardiometabolic disease – have increased since 2011 
  • Heart disease, stroke and diabetes deaths leveled off after 2010 while deaths from high blood pressure increased 
  • Experts believe that the US is losing ground in the battle against heart disease on the heals of the growing obesity epidemic 

Deaths from heart disease are still on the decline in the US – but those improvements have slowed significantly, a new study reveals.  

Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the US, though efforts to raise cardiovascular health awareness and encourage heart healthy diet and exercise have helped to cut the proportion of Americans dying of heart disease. 

Between 200 and 2014, the rate of death from cardiovascular disease in the US fell by about a third – but the new Northwestern University study suggests that progress against heart disease has slowed. 

The researchers found that, while fewer Americans died of heart disease in the US in 2017 than in 1999, those declines have slowed by 8.3 percent. 

They believe that the obesity epidemic continuing to grip the nation is responsible for the resurgence of the number one killer of Americans. 

A new study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that there about 6,500 fewer deaths from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke every year (file image)

‘One of the greatest successes in the last century is the dramatic decrease in heart disease death rates since the 1970s,’  senior author Dr Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of cardiology and epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told

‘What we really wanted to do is to see if the progress that we made was being undone.’ 

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the team looked at deaths in the US from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke between 1999 and 2017.

Researchers found that the number of overall deaths decreased over those 18 years from about 977,000 in 1999 to around 912,00 in 2017.

However, the promising rate of declines in these deaths has slowed since 2010.

Deaths from heart disease, stroke and diabetes leveled off around 2010 and deaths from high blood pressure increased between 1999 and 2017. 

Cardiometabolic death rates remained higher for black men and women than white men and women.

However, the rates rose from nearly 1.5 higher to nearly double over the course of the study period.

Dr Khan admitted that the findings were concerning. 

‘We’ve seen novel drugs for cholesterol come out and new devices for treatment in heart disease, so that’s concerning,’ she said.    

Dr Khan said the majority of these deaths are preventable and that the ‘culprit’ may be the rise of obesity – a known and major risk factor for heart disease.

Rates among American adults have risen from 30.5 percent in 1999 to 39.6 percent in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Experts have warned that the proportion of obese adults will only grow as younger generations do. 

‘On an individual level, we need to be engaging in heart-healthy behavior, exercising, maintaining a healthy body mass index,’ said Dr Khan.

‘And on a policy level, we need to have the infrastructure in place so people have safe places to exercise in their neighborhood and access to medications.’

She added that it is critical for people to prevent cardiometabolic disease from occurring early in life.  

‘Know your own numbers. Know your blood pressure, what’s a healthy weight for you and talk to your doctor about your risk for heart disease.’



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