Cardiovascular Disease Is Present in Nearly 50% of US Adults

JANUARY 31, 2019
Krista Rossi
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Cardiovascular disease is present in approximately 50% of US adults, according to updated statistics form the American Heart Association (AHA).

Currently, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally. While cardiovascular deaths steadily declined in the US for decades, they are on the rise again with 840,678 deaths in 2016 compared to 836,546 in 2015. On a global level though, cardiovascular deaths were lower in 2016 (17.6 million) compared to the previous year (17.9 million).

However, the 2019 statistics report a significant increase in the prevalence of cardiovascular deaths, with the definition of high blood pressure mainly leading the way. In the 2017 hypertension guidelines put out by the AHA and American College of Cardiology, high blood pressure was defined as a reading of 130/80 mm Hg, which contrasted from the previous definition of 140/90 mm Hg.

Overall, coronary heart disease, heart failures, stroke, and high blood pressure include cardiovascular disease, which has a prevalence of 9% in the US adults (24.3 million in 2016).

“As 1 of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, this overwhelming presence of high blood pressure can’t be dismissed from the equation in our fight against cardiovascular disease,” Ivor J. Benjamin, MD, volunteer president of the AHA and director of the Cardiovascular Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said in a recent statement. “Research has shown that eliminating high blood pressure could have a larger impact on CVD deaths than the elimination of all other risk factors among women and all except smoking among men.”

By controlling high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol in combination with adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors like not smoking, approximately 80% of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented, according to previous research. Eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are healthy lifestyle behaviors that could potentially have the most impact since they affect multiple conditions.

The decline of smoking rates contain some of the most significant improvements. From 2015 to 2016, 94% of children aged 12 to 19 were nonsmokers, which was an improvement of nearly 20 percentage points from the turn of the millennium (from 76% between 1999 and 2000). In just 14 years, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–17 years old who reported smoking in the past month also dropped by two-thirds, which was a decline from 13% in 2002 to 3.4% in 2016.
 
Additionally, nonsmoking adults composed 79% of the population in 2015 to 2016, which was up from 73% in 1999 to 2000.
 
The number of adults who smoke has also taken a nosedive in the past 50 years, with the number of adults who smoke dropping from 51% of males smoking in 1965 to 16.7% in 2015 and from 34% of females in 1965 to 13.6% in 2015 (age-adjusted rates).

Aside from the decline of smoking, more young Americans are exercising too. On 3 or more days per week, over 50% of students report participating in muscle-strengthening activities, which is up from 47.8% in 1991 to 53.4% in 2015. However, physical activity among US adults has decreased by more than a third (from 40.2% in 2005 to 26.9% in 2016).

Since the prevalence of obesity was 39.6% of US adults and 18.5% of youths from 2015 to 2016, exercise alone may not be enough. From those 2015-2016 statistics, 7.7% of adults and 5.6% of youth had severe obesity.

However, recent data have also stressed the importance of sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep per night are recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society in order to promote optimal health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 65.2% of people in the US regularly sleep 7 or more hours a night. Too much or too little sleep (more than 8 hours or less than 7 hours per night) was also associated with a greater risk of death from all causes  aeta-analysis of 43 studies.

“We pour so much effort into our update each year because we believe in the transformative power of continuously and systematically collecting, analyzing and interpreting these important data,” Mariell Jessup, MD, chief science and medical office wrote. “They hold us accountable and help us chart our progress and determine if and how we need to adjust our efforts.” 

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