Major health organization makes startling heart disease prediction

Estimated read time 6 min read

Heart disease has been the world’s No. 1 killer for over a century, and experts predict that it will become even more prevalent in the coming decades.

A report this month from the American Heart Association (AHA) predicts that at least six in 10 U.S. adults could experience cardiovascular disease within the next 30 years.

The rate of hypertension (high blood pressure) — which is one of the key risk factors for heart disease — is expected to increase from 51.2% in 2020 to 61.0% in 2050.

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Diabetes, another major risk factor, is also expected to rise (16.3% to 26.8%), along with obesity (43.1% to 60.6%), according to the study, which was published in the AHA journal Circulation.

As a result, total cardiovascular disease is predicted to rise from 11.3% to 15.0% between 2020 and 2050.

Heart disease has been the world’s No. 1 killer for over a century, and experts predict that it will become even more prevalent in the coming decades. (iStock)

“The landscape of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. is seeing the arrival of a near-perfect storm,” Dr. Dhruv S. Kazi, vice chair of the advisory writing group and a Boston cardiologist, said in a press release.

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“The last decade has seen a surge of cardiovascular risk factors, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, each of which raises the risks of developing heart disease and stroke,” he continued. 

“It is not surprising that an enormous increase in cardiovascular risk factors and diseases will produce a substantial economic burden.”

Woman heart doctor

As a result of the risk factors identified in the study, total cardiovascular disease is predicted to rise from 11.3% to 15.0% between 2020 and 2050. (iStock)

On a positive note, the researchers determined that hypercholesterolemia (high levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), will decline (45.8% to 24.0%).

They also predicted that diet, exercise and smoking habits will improve, although sleep quality is expected to worsen.

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The researchers analyzed data from the 2015 to March 2020 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the 2015 to 2019 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

“We projected through 2050, overall and by age and race and ethnicity, accounting for changes in disease prevalence and demographics,” they wrote.

“[The] most adverse trends are projected to be worse among people identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native or multiracial, Black or Hispanic.”

Life's essential 8

Life’s Essential 8 consists of the following eight lifestyle behaviors for optimal heart health, according to the American Heart Association. (iStock/American Heart Association)

The study looked for trends in cardiovascular risk factors based on adverse levels of Life’s Essential 8 and clinical cardiovascular disease and stroke

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Life’s Essential 8 consists of the following eight lifestyle behaviors for optimal heart health, according to the AHA:

  1. Following a healthy sleep schedule
  2. Not smoking
  3. Getting regular physical activity
  4. Adhering to a healthy diet
  5. Maintaining a healthy body weight
  6. Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels
  7. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels
  8. Maintaining healthy blood pressure

Overall, the report predicts that clinical cardiovascular disease (affecting the heart or blood vessels) will affect 45 million adults by 2050, and clinical cardiovascular disease (including hypertension) will affect more than 184 million adults.

man holds his heart

Overall, the report predicts that clinical cardiovascular disease (affecting the heart or blood vessels) will affect 45 million adults by 2050, and clinical cardiovascular disease (including hypertension) will affect more than 184 million adults. (iStock)

“The prevalence of many cardiovascular risk factors and most established diseases will increase over the next 30 years,” the researchers stated.

Renato Apolito, M.D., the medical director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center, was not involved in the AHA study but shared his insights on the findings.

“We are all under a lot of pressure and stress to work more to make ends meet.”

One of the key factors is the projected increase in obesity in the coming decades, Apolito said in an interview with Fox News Digital. 

“Obesity is very commonly associated as a driver of hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertriglyceridemia,” he said. 

Some of the greater causes of obesity are lack of exercise and a heavy reliance on processed and fast food, he noted.

Person eats French fries and burger in car.

Some of the greater causes of obesity are lack of exercise and a heavy reliance on processed and fast food, a cardiologist said. (iStock)

“I suspect that as our standard of living goes up, our reliance on processed and pre-prepared food — in addition to lack of exercise and lack of sleep from our hectic work lives — will drive up obesity as the common denominator leading to all the other risk factors mentioned,” Apolito predicted.

“All of those factors put together would lead to an increase in coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke.”

Reducing the risk

“Clinical and public health interventions are needed to effectively manage, stem and even reverse these adverse trends,” the researchers advised.

Apolito agreed that change is needed.

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“We are all under a lot of pressure and stress to work more to make ends meet,” he said. 

“This typically leads to the bad lifestyle habits mentioned above.”

The doctor recommends starting small, setting aside just 10 to 20 minutes per day to do some form of exercise and to make conscious decisions to avoid processed and fast foods.

Runner with smartwatch

A cardiologist recommends starting small, setting aside just 10 to 20 minutes per day to do some form of exercise and to make conscious decisions to avoid processed and fast foods. (iStock)

“You would maintain a healthier weight, which would mitigate your risk of hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, dyslipidemia and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease,” he said.

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Apolito also pointed out that the study is speculative, using predictive models on data from the past and present to predict the future — “which is never easy to do.”

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“Hopefully, with increased public education, we can turn the tide and improve overall health in the coming decades by making healthy choices in lifestyle,” he added.

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