Doctors Worry That Declines in Heart Disease and Strokes Won’t Last

December 17, 2008 02:57 PM
by Isabel Cowles
The American Heart Association recently published a report noting a 30 percent drop in heart disease and strokes; however, experts fear that the trend will be short-lived.

Heart Disease and Strokes Still a Risk

A recent report published in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, indicates that the incidence of heart disease and stroke rates has dropped significantly in recent years; however, several existing health risks threaten to push the numbers back up.

According to the report, incidence of coronary heart disease has declined 30.2 percent since 1999, while stroke-related deaths have fallen 29.2 percent in the same period. Despite this apparent progress, experts, including the report’s author, are concerned that the trend won’t last.

Doctors attribute the reduction in heart disease and stroke rates to better cholesterol and blood pressure management, as well as a decline in smoking rates. However, other major lifestyle choices continue to be health risks, and may have a profound effect on future heart health statistics.

For example, 62 percent of adults in the study reported that they did not participate in any vigorous activity that lasted longer than 10 minutes at a time.

AHA spokeswoman Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum told the Los Angeles Times, “Although death rates are declining, several of the risk factors leading to heart disease are increasing. … There is an increase in obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity, which all lead to heart disease and stroke.”

The study noted that obesity is particularly on the rise among children: from 1971–1974, the percentage of children in the 95th percentile for obesity was 4 percent. By 2003–2006, that figure had climbed to 17 percent.

According to The Los Angeles Times, deaths by heart disease and stroke account for approximately one in every 2.9 deaths in the U.S., and “Nearly 2,400 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of one death every 37 seconds.”

Related Topics: Heart disease factors and prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity rates have risen slightly in both men and women during the last few years. The CDC notes that obesity is a major health risk, as the condition is not only associated with coronary heart disease and stroke, but also with diabetes, cancer, hypertension and other ailments.

In November, findingDulcinea reported that an inflammatory immune response may be associated with heart disease. The original findings were published by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company that found that statins, such as those in AtraZeneca’s drug Crestor, can reduce the C-reactive proteins that act as an inflammation marker, and thereby decrease the risk of heart disease.

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