Almost Half of All U.S. Adults Have Heart Disease or High Blood Pressure
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.—and it seems as if the problem is only getting worse. Nearly half of American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to a new report released by the American Heart Association.
The report, the AHA’s annual Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics update, was published in the journal Circulation on Thursday. For the gigantic report, a panel of experts looked at data from a range of sources (including government reports and clinical trials) to find statistics on cardiovascular disease, which was defined as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, or high blood pressure.
The results showed that 48 percent of American adults (which is about 121.5 million people) have some form of heart disease, and that heart disease is also contributing to an increasing number of deaths. For instance, the report found that that there were 840,678 deaths from the disease in 2016, which is up from 836,546 in 2015.
This reality is something we should all be thinking about, Mariell Jessup, M.D., chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, tells SELF. “People need to see that number of 48 percent and realize the odds of an individual having some form of cardiovascular disease is very high,” she says.
It’s important to note that the AHA and American College of Cardiology changed the definition of high blood pressure in their hypertension guidelines in 2017 (after much of the data in the report was collected). Previously, people were classified as having hypertension if they had a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or above, but it’s now defined as 130/80 or above. So, if you haven't gotten your blood pressure checked recently, now is the time to do that—even if it hasn't changed much, you might be in a different hypertension category now.
The report points out that about 80 percent of all heart disease can be preventing by controlling high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, as well as living a healthy lifestyle. That includes not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being active, and doing your best to keep a healthy weight.
If your job makes it tough to be active during the day, it’s crucial to find time to work out around that, even if it’s going for a brisk walk, Dr. Patel says. “You need to move,” he says. “It can make a big difference in your health.”
It’s also crucial to “know your numbers,” Dr. Glassberg says, which means blood pressure but also cholesterol. “Doing regular cholesterol and blood pressure checks can bring your risk factors to your doctor's attention long before a heart attack happens.”
Getting a general physical exam (where these things are usually monitored) regularly is also important, Dr. Jessup says. (Exact recommendations on how often you should get one vary by age, but MedlinePlus suggests that you see your doctor for a physical every one to two years if you’re between 18 and 39, and every year if you’re over 40.)
If your doctor does find that you have a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, take their advice to follow steps to make a change, whether it’s through lifestyle changes or medication. “The good news is that a significant percentage of cardiovascular disease is totally preventable with lifestyle changes and modern medicine,” Dr. Jessup says.