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U.S. Heart Disease Costs Expected to Soar

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The cost of treating heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to triple in the next 20 years, to $818 billion, a new report says.

According to the American Heart Association, which issued the policy statement, this $545 billion increase in costs for treating heart disease and stroke is largely due to the aging of the population.

"The burden of heart disease and stroke on the U.S. health care system will be substantial and will limit our ability to care for the U.S. population unless we can take steps now to prevent cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Paul Heidenreich, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford Medical School and chair of the American Heart Association panel issuing the policy statement.

The policy statement was published in the Jan. 24 online edition of Circulation.

This dramatic increase in costs was based on the current rate of heart disease adjusted for changes in the overall age of Americans and the anticipated racial mix of patients. Moreover, these estimates didn't take into account the additional costs for those who have more than one condition, or new treatments that might come along, the researchers noted.

To curb this rise in costs, the panel said that "effective prevention strategies are needed if we are to limit the growing burden of cardiovascular disease."

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a news release that "unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among many Americans. Early intervention and evidence-based public policies are absolute musts to significantly reduce alarming rates of obesity, hypertension, tobacco use and cholesterol levels."

Right now, 36.9 percent of Americans have some type of heart disease, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and other conditions. By 2030, that number will rise to 40.5 percent of the population, or about 116 million people, according to the report.

The biggest increases are thought to be in stroke, up 24.9 percent, and heart failure, up 25 percent.

Between 2010 and 2030, the cost of caring for patients with heart disease will go from $273 billion to $818 billion, the panel predicted.

In addition, heart disease will cost billions more in lost productivity, increasing from about $172 billion in 2010 to $276 billion in 2030. These losses include days missed from work or home tasks because of illness, plus lost earnings due to premature death.

"Cost of care will grow markedly unless we can either reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular disease or find less expensive ways to deliver current care," Heidenreich said.

"There are several targets for prevention including reduced salt intake and better control of risk factors -- for example, hypertension -- that would make an important impact if successful," he added.

Commenting on the policy statement, Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that "cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States, yet cardiovascular disease and many of these deaths could be prevented."

Fonarow suggested that "population-based strategies are urgently needed to improve cardiovascular health, prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease, and help to address the projected rise in expenditures. Implementing effective health promotion and cardiovascular disease prevention needs to become a national priority," he said.

There are also a number of low-cost, high-value cardiovascular protective therapies that are available but are underutilized in routine clinical care that could also help to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, he added.

These include keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control, not smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which means eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and keeping your weight down. These strategies have been proven to substantially reduce the risk of heart disease.

More information

For more information on heart disease, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Paul Heidenreich, M.D., associate professor, medicine, Stanford Medical School, Palo Alto, Calif.; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Jan. 24, 2011, Circulation, online

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