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AHA Report: Half of U.S. Adults Have CVD

Due to a change in the definition of hypertension, nearly half of U.S. adults now have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to a report from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) comprising coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and hypertension had a prevalence of 48.0% overall in 2013-2016 — or 121.5 million people in 2016, researchers found from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, according to the report in Circulation.

Adjusted for age, the prevalence of high blood pressure alone was estimated to be 46.0% when using 130/80 mm Hg as the new blood pressure threshold. The CVD rate excluding hypertension plummeted to 9.0% overall, wrote Emelia Benjamin, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine, and chair of the AHA writing group.

“That might seem like good news, but 9% of the U.S. adult population represents more than 24.3 million Americans with coronary artery disease, heart failure, or stroke,” Mariell Jessup, MD, AHA chief science and medical Officer, said in a statement.

The 2017 American College of Cardiology/AHA guidelines redefined hypertension such that its prevalence went up from 31.9% (according to Joint National Committee 7 guideline thresholds) to 45.6% in NHANES data from 2011-2014.

The new report supports the notion that risk factors are changing over time.

Data from 2015-2016 suggested that 39.6% of adults were obese, up from 36.3% in 2011-2014. However, tobacco use continued its decades-long decline in the U.S., with now just over 15% of adults and 3% of adolescents reporting having smoked cigarettes in the past month (e-cigarette use among high school students at 11.3%).

“Beginning in 2020, we’ll chart our progress with a metric called healthy life expectancy. Also known as health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE), it captures the number of years a person can expect to live in good health based on current patterns of mortality and morbidity. The lay public may find HALE a more meaningful and relatable metric than statistics about death rates and risk factors,” according to Jessup.

Benjamin disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.


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