Good news about heart dis­ease deaths — brace for the grip­per

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION -

If you’re one of the ev­i­dently healthy peo­ple who has de­cided that 50 is the new 40, here’s a dose of sober­ing news. The big de­cline in deaths due to heart dis­ease that the U.S. has en­joyed over much of the past cen­tury has slowed to a crawl. And for one age group — mid­dle-aged Amer­i­cans — deaths due to car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease are ac­tu­ally on the rise.

The death rate in the U.S. due to car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, in­clud­ing heart dis­ease and strokes, had dropped more than 70% over six decades — un­til 2011. Since then, how­ever, deaths due to car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease have dropped by a mere 4 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Heart dis­ease has been the na­tion’s top killer, but pub­lic health ex­perts had ex­pected it to be sup­planted by can­cer by 2020. Yet with these lat­est num­bers, ex­pect heart dis­ease to re­main Pub­lic En­emy No. 1 for a while.

Why are heart at­tacks and strokes hold­ing strong? Amer­ica doesn’t smoke as much any­more; the days of cig­a­rette butt-filled ash­trays on work desks and restau­rants clouded in an ashen haze are long gone. We tell our­selves we’re eat­ing bet­ter — gluten is a dirty word for many peo­ple, and the meat­free Im­pos­si­ble Burger now ap­pears promi­nently on menus at Burger King, Red Robin and White Cas­tle. We’re liv­ing health­ier, right?

Car­di­ol­o­gists in­stead point to two en­dur­ing cul­prits, The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports: obe­sity and the rise in Type 2 diabetes. Both con­trib­ute to high blood pres­sure, Amer­ica’s “si­lent killer” that ramps up the risk of strokes and heart prob­lems. Ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal, nearly 40% of Amer­i­can

adults over 20 are obese, and 9.4% of U.S. adults 18 and older suffer from diabetes. Those per­cent­ages should star­tle and hum­ble all of us.

In­suf­fi­cient ex­er­cise, bad food, and too much of it. Yes, this tri­fecta takes a toll, and the pop­u­la­tion seg­ment bear­ing much of the brunt is those mid­dle-aged Amer­i­cans: The CDC says the heart dis­ease death rate for peo­ple be­tween 45 and 64 rose 1.5% from 2011 to 2017.

Chuck the old im­age of a heart at­tack wait­ing to hap­pen — an older man, usu­ally a smoker, with choles­terol lev­els out the roof. In­creas­ingly, heart dis­ease pa­tients are younger, more obese, of­ten women, and less likely to smoke.

Heart dis­ease kills 859,000 Amer­i­cans ev­ery year, the CDC says, roughly one-third of all deaths. Treat­ing heart dis­ease rep­re­sents a $199 bil­lion an­nual hit on the coun­try’s health care sys­tem, and $131 bil­lion in lost pro­duc­tiv­ity due to pre­ma­ture deaths. But take heart (sorry, we couldn’t re­sist): The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says 80% of pre­ma­ture heart at­tacks and strokes are pre­ventable.

Easy fixes won’t suf­fice. At best the sup­ple­ments route has its lim­its, and many of those pills do noth­ing but shrink your bank ac­count. We hate to sound like a bro­ken record, but simply stop­ping smok­ing isn’t enough any­more. Sen­si­ble diet? Check. More ex­er­cise? Check. Reg­u­lar doc­tor vis­its? Check. Tak­ing the statins or other meds the doc pre­scribed for you? Check.

You don’t need to hop on the band­wagon of ev­ery new health fad that gets a head­line. All you need is a bit of com­mon sense — and the willpower to act on it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.