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Heart Disease Prevention May Save Billions Annually in U.S.
Date:7/26/2011

TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Prevention is the key to stemming the soaring cost of heart disease in the United States, which reached $450 billion last year, according to a new policy statement from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Programs to better manage cholesterol, blood pressure and tobacco use would be a wise long-term investment in the nation's health and economy, said the heart experts as they called on policy makers to make heart-disease prevention a national priority.

"What we spend on cardiovascular disease is not sustainable. But we can afford to prevent it. Ultimately, we can't afford not to," said the statement's lead author, Dr. William S. Weintraub, chair of cardiology and cardiology section chief at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., in an AHA news release.

In the statement, published July 25 in the journal Circulation, the authors called for community-based changes that make adopting a healthier lifestyle easier. They calculated that every $1 spent on the construction of walking or biking paths would cut medical costs by $3.

Additionally, a nationwide plan to slash salt in the U.S. food supply would help Americans stay within recommended sodium guidelines -- 1,500 milligrams daily -- and reduce the rate of high blood pressure by 25 percent, the statement said. That would save $26 billion in health care costs each year, the authors added.

"People often don't realize the power to stay healthy is in their own hands," said Weintraub. "But it's not something many individuals or families can do alone. It takes fundamental changes from society as a whole."

To implement heart-healthy changes within communities, the AHA said federal, state and local lawmakers must take action.

"Individual responsibility is a crucial first step, but environmental and policy changes are the most impactful ways to improve health," said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, AHA president an
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