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Heart Disease Still a Top Threat

Jun 24, 2015 08:07PM ● By MED Magazine

By Kelly Steffen, DO

Heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of both American men and women today, and the latest statistics are staggering. Approximately 2,150 people die from heart disease each day, an average of one death every 40 seconds. While rates declined 30.8 percent from 2001 to 2011, cardiovascular disease still accounted for 31.3 percent of deaths in 2011. 


Here is an up-to-date look at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “Life’s Simple 7” steps to controlling heart disease risk.


Although tobacco use has declined substantially, it remains the second-leading cause of total deaths in the United States. And e-cigarette products threaten these declines. The economic impact of smoking every year in the United States, including direct medical costs and lost productivity, is estimated at more than $289 billion.


The leading risk factor for death in the U.S. is an unhealthy diet. Major contributors were insufficient amounts of fruits, nuts/seeds, whole grains, vegetables and seafood, as well as excess amounts of sodium.


When comparing healthy and unhealthy diets, the AHA found the unhealthy option cost an average of was $1.50 more per day. In the same study, snack food was found to cost 31 cents for fruit and vegetables, containing only 57 calories per portion, compared to 33 cents and 183 calories per portion of a less healthy snack. 


Only 75.7 percent of children and 46.6 percent of adults have ideal cholesterol. Prevalence of ideal levels has improved over the past decade in children, but unfortunately has remained the same in adults.


Blood pressure. According to the AHA, one-third of Americans have hypertension. The 

 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) released data from 2009 to 2012 revealing that among U.S. adults with hypertension, 54.1 percent were controlled, 76.5 percent were currently treated, 82.7 percent were aware they had hypertension and 17.3 percent were undiagnosed.


Diabetes mellitus affects one in 10 US adults, 90 percent of cases being type 2 diabetes mellitus. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in children or adolescents now constitutes 50 percent of all childhood diabetes mellitus.


According to the National Health Interview Survey, only 20.9 percent of Americans met the guidelines for both aerobic and strengthening activity. In a study completed by the NHANES, men engaged in 35 minutes of activity per day, whereas women engage in 21 minutes per day. In the same survey, reviewing self-reported versus actual measured physical activity, 60 percent of respondents self-reported higher values of activity than what was measured by use of direct methods; men self-reported data was 44 percent greater and women self-reported 138 percent greater than actual physical activity. 


According to NHANES data, there have been no overall changes in obesity rates in adults between 2003 to 2004 and 2011 to 2012.  If current trends in the growth of obesity continue, total health care costs related to obesity could reach nearly $900 billion by 2030, accounting for 16 to 18 percent of U.S. health expenditures. 


By doing just four things – eating right, being physically active, not smoking and keeping a healthy weight –the risk of heart disease can be lowered by as much as 82 percent. As healthcare providers, we can work together to help our patients get heart healthy with just a few simple steps, and eliminate heart disease as our nation’s leading cause of death, once and for all. 

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