US heart disease death rates have significantly decreased in the past 30 years.

US heart disease death rates have significantly decreased in the past 30 years.

Declining Rates of Fatal Heart Disease in the US

Heart Illustration

Fatal heart disease has been on the decline in the United States, dropping about 4% per year between 1990 and 2019. However, researchers from Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey warn that these gains could be wiped out if Americans don’t make significant lifestyle changes.

The research reveals that the declining rates of fatal heart disease have stalled in recent years. While the overall numbers appear positive, with a substantial decline in deaths from all types of coronary heart disease for both men and women, there is still room for considerable improvement. Cande Ananth, the study’s lead author and chief of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, emphasized the need for action in a news release from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Among individuals aged 25 to 84, deaths from heart disease have decreased from over 397,000 deaths in 1990 to about 237,000 in 2019, despite an increase in the median age of Americans from 33 to 38. The death rate for men has declined by 3.7% annually, and women have seen a 4% annual decline during these years. However, between 2011 and 2019, these declines have slowed significantly.

Interestingly, people born after 1980 face a slightly increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease at any age compared to the previous generation. This finding highlights the importance of addressing modifiable risk factors.

The study found that eliminating smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity could have prevented half of the deaths observed during the study period. Although there have been positive developments in reducing tobacco usage, with the percentage of smokers falling from 26% to 14% during this timeframe, the rates of obesity have sharply risen from 12% to 43% in 2019. Additionally, alcohol use has also increased slightly over the study period.

Cholesterol-lowering statins and improved diagnostic tests were credited as important factors for reducing heart disease deaths. While heart attacks often happen without warning, there are other types of coronary heart disease, such as chronic ischemic heart disease and atherosclerotic heart disease, which can be diagnosed and treated years before they cause damage to the heart muscles. Ischemic heart disease refers to the narrowing of heart arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, while atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries.

This research, published in the American Heart Journal, utilized data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics to analyze heart disease fatalities in individuals aged 25 to 84 over three decades. The study’s objective is to help inform standards of care and public health priorities by identifying high-risk subsets of patients and targeting interventions to them.

In conclusion, while the United States has seen a decline in fatal heart disease over the past few decades, the rates have plateaued in recent years. To continue making progress, individuals need to make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, moderating alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight. By doing so, it is possible to further reduce the number of deaths caused by heart disease and improve overall cardiovascular health.