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June 04, 2024

Heart disease is the top cause of death in the U.S., and more than 60% of Americans will have it by 2050

Increases in hypertension, diabetes and obesity are among the reasons cardiovascular disease is expected to keep rising, a new report shows.

Adult Health Heart Disease
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By 2050, more than 184 million Americans will have some type of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. The projected increase is based on rising rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, among other factors.

More than 6 in 10 American adults will have some kind of cardiovascular disease by 2050, carrying a $1.8 trillion price tag in direct and indirect costs, a new analysis shows.

Overall, the number of people with heart disease, including stroke but excluding high blood pressure, will rise from 28 million to 45 million adults by 2050, according to the new research from the American Heart Association. The number of people who have strokes will nearly double from 10 million people to almost 20 million people. 

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Heart disease kills about 800,000 Americans each year and is the leading cause of death. A continued rise in the number of people with high blood pressure, and increases in the rates of obesity and diabetes, will cause the spike in cardiovascular disease. The aging population will be another contributing factor, according to the analysis.

"The findings of these important advisories predict a dire human and economic toll from heart disease and stroke if changes are not made," American Heart Association Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown said. "However, this does not have to be the reality of our future."

By 2050, more than 184 million people will have high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, compared to 128 million in 2020. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, will be highest and rising in people ages 20-64.

Obesity rates will continue to rise, impacting more than 180 million people by 2050, with the highest prevalence and highest increase among people ages 20-64, largely due to poor diet, according to the projections. The number of children ages 2-19 with obesity will be 26 million by 2050, compared to 15 million in 2020.

Diabetes will increase from about 16% to nearly 27%, impacting more than 80 million people, according to the report.

About 1 in 5 people will be over 65 by 2030. At that point, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, increasing the burden of cardiovascular disease, the report projects.

The research also foresees continued racial disparities in health outcomes.

"We found larger increases in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and risk factors, and in the number of people with these conditions, among people from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds," said Joynt Maddox, an associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "Some of this is due to demographic shifts in the U.S., with projections suggesting that Asian and Hispanic populations will nearly double by 2060. However, much of the inequity we see in cardiovascular disease and risk factors remains attributed to systemic racism, as well as socioeconomic factors and access to care."

Among adults aged 20 and older, the American Heart Association report notes:

• Black adults have the highest prevalence of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, along with the highest projected prevalence of inadequate sleep and poor diet.

• The total number of people with cardiovascular disease will rise most among Hispanic adults with higher numbers also seen among Asian populations.

• Asian adults have the highest projected prevalence of inadequate physical activity.

• The aggregated group of Native Americans, Alaskan Natives and multiracial adults will have the highest projected prevalence of smoking.

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