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Almost half of U.S. adults have cardiovascular disease: report

Health
Woman with her hand to her chest.

Each year, the American Heart Association publishes heart and stroke statistics. The 2019 update offered troubling news – nearly half of all U.S. adults have cardiovascular disease.
The AHA study found that 121.5 million Americans, or about 48.5 percent of the population, had been diagnosed with a heart or blood vessel disease as of 2016.
The percentage is up significantly over previous years primarily because  the AHA, along with the American College of Cardiology, redefined high blood pressure in 2017, lowering the cutoff from 140/90 to 130/80. However, cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer of all Americans—a statistic that doesn’t seem to be budging.
Cardiovascular disease-related deaths increased from from more than 836,000 in 2015 to more than 840,000 in 2016, according to the AHA report.
“Cardiovascular disease remains enemy No. 1,” says Dr. Michael Malinics, a cardiologist at Tidelands Health Heart and Vascular Specialists in Pawleys Island.

Risk factors

According to Dr. Malinics, this is due in part to risk factors that are impossible to influence, such as genetics and age.
“You can’t change your genes or your age,” he says. “And because people are living longer and we have a larger population of older people, we’re naturally going to see more heart disease.”

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There are, however, many risk factors that can be changed or addressed:

  • Tobacco use. Smoking is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and those who quit can greatly reduce that risk.
  • Diet. Dr. Malinics says cardiologists recommend the AHA’s cardiac diet, which is low in salt, includes plenty of vegetables, fruits and grains, and minimizes consumption of red meats and fried foods.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise is critical to good cardiovascular health.
  • Weight. Dr. Malinics says to avoid fad diets, such as the keto diet, and stick with the tried-and-true cardiac diet.
  • Medical management. High cholesterol and high blood pressure should be treated aggressively, which may include the use of prescription medications. Statins, in particular, are an important drug for high cholesterol.

“If more people saw their primary care physician regularly, took prescribed medications, moved a little more throughout the day and watched their diet, we’d see the numbers in this report coming down,” says Dr. Malinics. “There are many factors that can reduce heart disease risk.”

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