Fighting Heart Disease

Cardiovascular diseases including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and stroke collectively remain the leading cause of death in the world and the United States.

The number of adults living with heart failure increased from about 5.7 million (2009 – 2012) to about 6.5 million (2011 – 2014), according to the American Heart Association’s 2017 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update.

Based on the latest statistics, the number of people diagnosed with heart failure, which means the heart is too weak to pump blood throughout the body, is projected to rise by 46 percent by 2030, resulting in more than 8 million people adults with heart failure.  According to experts, there are several reasons for the rise in heart failure, that can be attributed to medical advances, because more people are surviving heart attacks which means they face higher heart failure risk afterward, said Paul Muntner, Ph.D., a member of the statistical update’s writing panel and a professor and vice chair in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  But the aging of America and other health problems are also major contributors.

The statistical update has been published as a frequently cited reference every year since 1958.  It’s produced using the most-recent data available compiled by the AHA, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government sources.

In the latest update, many major statistics did not change significantly.

Cardiovascular diseases including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and stroke collectively remain the leading cause of death in the world and the United States.  Heart disease and stroke are still the leading two killers in the world; in the U.S., heart disease ranks first and stroke fifth.

Here are some key statistics, including the year when the most recent data was available:

• Cardiovascular diseases were the most common cause of death in the world as of 2013, claiming about 17.3 million lives.

• In the U.S., more than 1 in 3 adults (92.1 million adults) have cardiovascular diseases, accounting for 807,775 deaths in 2014.

• About 790,000 people in the US have heart attacks each year.  Of those, about 114,000 will die.  In the U.S., about 795,000 adults experienced a new or recurrent stroke, accounting for nearly 133,000 deaths in 2014.

• There were more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of them fatal.

Disparities in how these diseases affect different people continued, according to the update.

“We know that advances in cardiovascular health are not distributed evenly across the population,” said Emelia J. Benjamin, M.D., chair of the update’s writing group professor of medicine in the section of cardiovascular medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.  “In particular, individuals who live in rural communities, have less education, have lower incomes, and are ethnic or racial minorities have an undue burden of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors.”

The statistical update also included some encouraging news.  The death rate from cardiovascular diseases dropped more than 25 percent from 2004 to 2014, and physical activity increased more than 7 percent from 1998 to 2015.

The update included the latest figures on what the AHA calls “Life’s Simple 7,” key measures and behaviors that can help people stay healthy and lower their risk for heart disease, stroke and other major problems.

Life’s Simple 7 includes non-smoking, staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a body weight, and controlling of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Here are statistics related to Life’s Simple 7, with the most recent year for which data is available:

• Nearly 17 percent of men, 14 percent of women and nearly 5 percent of children ages 12 – 17 smoked cigarettes in 2015.

• About 22 percent of adults in 2015 met federal physical activity guidelines.

• Between 1999 and 2012, although AHA healthy diet scores tended to improve in all race/ethnicity, income, and education levels, many disparities present in earlier years widened over time, with generally smaller improvements seen in minority groups and those with lower income or education.

• In the US, the prevalence of obesity among adults, estimated using NHANES data, increased from 1999 to 2000 through 2013 to 2014 from 30.5 percent to 37.7 percent.

• In the US, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents age 2 – 19 years, estimated using NHANES data, is 33.4 percent (16.2 percent were overweight and 17.2 percent were obese).

• Nearly 94.6 million, or 40 percent, of American adults had total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or higher.

• Nearly 86 million, or 34 percent, of American adults had high blood pressure.

• An estimated 23.4 million, or 9.1 percent, of American adults have diagnosed diabetes.  Additionally, an estimated 7.6 million, or 3.1 percent, of American adults have undiagnosed diabetes; and about 81.6 million, or 33.9 percent, of American adults have prediabetes.


Norovirus on the rise

The virus infects the stomach and/or intestines, causing stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.

The Center for Disease Control says the public should brace itself because the norovirus affecting millions may be on the rise. 

The virus infects the stomach and/or intestines, causing stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.  Typically spread through vomit, stool and touching contaminated surfaces or objects is most common during winter months, but the CDC said based on outbreak reports, they are expecting a large spike in February and March.

Doctors said one will know the difference between a stomach bug and the norovirus because symptoms will be more frequent and last longer.  They also said it takes little contact to contract the virus.

There is no vaccine or medicine that can stop norovirus.  But the Centers for Disease Control recommends following these steps to prevent the spread of the virus:

• Wash hands with soap and water

• Disinfect contaminated surfaces and objects

• Wash contaminated clothing, bedding and towels

• Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly

• Cook any seafood thoroughly

• If you’re sick, don’t prepare any food for or take care of others for at least two days after your symptoms stop

And if you do contract norovirus, be sure to drink extra fluids.  Severe dehydration can be a serious problem with this virus.  And stay home.

If you’re sick and the symptoms last longer than three days, you should consider going to a doctor.  And the elderly, young and chronically-ill should take extra care.

Officials say the virus can be very devastating to somebody already compromised, and those people often times need to be hospitalized for what is called supportive care – fluid, electrolyte management.