heart disease

It seems that Americans aren’t getting the message about heart disease.

New statistics predict that 45 percent of people in the United States will have at least one issue related to the disease by 2035.

That’s up from earlier predictions from the American Heart Association (AHA) of 40 percent by 2030.

The AHA predicts that costs related to the disease will double from $555 billion in 2016 to $1.1 trillion in 2035.

That “could bankrupt our nation’s economy and healthcare system,” according to AHA President Steven Houser, PhD.

He says heart disease and its complications are spreading quicker than originally thought.

The news comes as two celebrities made recent headlines for heart-related complications.

Actor Bill Paxton died at age 61, reportedly from a stroke during heart surgery to fix a damaged valve, while fitness guru Bob Harper, from “The Biggest Loser,” suffered a heart attack at age 51.

Why is heart disease getting worse, even though our society seems obsessed with healthy living?

Other diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease garner more attention, but the fact is cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the nation’s most prevalent and costly killer, Houser told Healthline.

Even though smoking is on the decline, Houser said that other risk factors — obesity, poor diet, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes — are on the rise.

In addition, people may not realize how devastating heart disease is until they know someone who has it.

Read more: Get the facts on heart disease »

Beating a preventable disease

Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiology professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”

He told Healthline that the main factors driving the rise in heart disease are obesity and type 2 diabetes, but the real underlying culprits are moving less and stressing more.

“What we aren't doing enough is getting up and out, spending quality time with loved ones daily, and smelling the roses,” Miller said. "We also need ‘me time’ to recharge, so I tell my patients to spend at least 15 minutes by themselves to collect their thoughts, whether by meditation or shutting off the radio while in the car.”

What we aren't doing enough is getting up and out, spending quality time with loved ones daily.
Dr. Michael Miller, University of Maryland School of Medicine

“I also suggest getting up every 15 minutes if you have a desk job and move around and stretch.  Same recommendations hold while watching TV,” he said.

Dr. Regina Druz, a cardiologist at the Integrative Cardiology Center of Long Island, told Healthline that stress is a factor along with obesity, diabetes, and pollution.

“The epidemic is related to several factors, all converging in what amounts to a ‘perfect storm’ situation,” she said. “However, what fuels the rise of diabetes and obesity, and heart disease down the line, is inflammation, and the impact of inflammation and environment on our genetics.”

Read more: Doctors finally begin to treat obesity

A wake-up call?

Houser was surprised when he reviewed the recent AHA report due to the rising death rates and numbers that describe the financial toll CVD will have in the United States.

The report also finds that, by 2035, more than 123 million Americans will have high blood pressure, 24 million will have coronary heart disease, and more than 11 million will have experienced a stroke.

The fact that [cardiovascular disease] could singlehandedly bankrupt our nation’s healthcare system is disturbing.
Steven Houser, American Heart Association

Houser said better investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would reduce the burden and costs associated with heart disease.

Policymakers must invest in research and ensure Americans have affordable, quality health care—especially preventive care. Then, schools and workplaces have to create healthy environments that promote healthy habits, he said.

“The fact that CVD could singlehandedly bankrupt our nation’s healthcare system is disturbing,” Houser said. “But it’s a real possibility if we don’t act soon to do a better job of preventing what are largely preventable disorders."