Death rates from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and related disorders have been decreasing for decades, but recently, those rates have slowed or stalled.
“At best, progress has slowed to a halt, and, at worst, our rates of cardiovascular disease are going up,” said Steven Nissen, chief academic officer for the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic. And the cause, almost everyone agrees, is the obesity epidemic and all of its consequences.
More than 93 million adults and nearly 14 million children and adolescents in the United States are considered to be obese—a number that has been climbing for decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers analyzed death records from 1999 to 2017 from the CDC and found a measurable shift in the past decade. The decline in mortality rates from heart disease has slowed, the decline in mortality rates from stroke and diabetes has plateaued, and there has been an increase in mortality from hypertension-related problems, such as kidney disease.
The research also showed that the disparities between black and white Americans have persisted, with black Americans at a greater risk of death from these diseases. The CDC released data in 2018 showing that the heart disease death rate has been decreasing about 2.4% per year among white people and 2.2% per year among black people over the past 50 years.
The researchers were surprised to learn about the lack of “continued progress” despite a steady decline in smoking and ongoing advances in medicine, including diagnostics; new drugs to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes; and surgical techniques.
Health experts agree that a key component in addressing the problem is early intervention, encouraging exercise and healthy eating habits in children, and discouraging risky behaviors such as smoking. Nissen, said that, particularly regarding obesity, “we have got to attack this problem before it gets to the point where people are really obese and are in trouble. Because once people have developed severe obesity, reversing that is very difficult.”
Source: The Washington Post, August 27, 2019