Most Americans Will Have Cardiovascular Disease by 2050

More than six in ten Americans will have some type of cardiovascular disease by 2050, according to a recent report by the American Heart Association.

The total costs related to cardiovascular disease are expected to triple to $1.8 trillion by 2050.

The changes in cardiovascular disease prevalence are driven by the population getting older, being more diverse, and significant increases in risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity.

Clinically, cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to a number of conditions, such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure, among others.

High blood pressure is not only CVD but also a significant risk factor contributing to most types of heart disease and stroke. Therefore, it was predicted separately from all CVD in the analysis.

The report predicts high blood pressure to increase from 51.2% to 61%. Since it is a type of CVD, that means over 184 million Americans will have a clinical diagnosis of cardiovascular disease by 2050, a considerable increase from 128 million in 2020.

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke but not including high blood pressure, may increase from 11.3% to 15% (45 million) by 2050.

The prevalence of stroke, which already accounts for one out of every 19 deaths in the United States, will nearly double from 10 million to almost 20 million adults.

Concerns over growing obesity rates

The epidemic of obesity is poised to continue, with its rates predicted to increase from 43.1% to 60.6%, impacting more than 180 million people.

Obesity and cardiovascular disease are closely linked, as carrying extra weight contributes directly to CVD risk factors such as elevated levels of lipids, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders.

Data suggests that abdominal obesity, defined by waist circumference, is a CVD risk marker independent of body mass index (BMI).

People aged 20-64 years also will have the highest prevalence and highest growth for obesity, as more than 70 million young adults have a poor diet.

The report brings alarm bells about obesity in children and adolescents aged 2 to 19, as the rates are estimated to rise from 20.6% in 2020 to 33% in 2050. The highest increases of obesity are predicted among children 2 to 5 years old and adolescents aged 12 to 19.

The AHA predicts the rates of diabetes to increase from 16.3% to 26.8% and will impact more than 80 million Americans by 2050. Most of the type 2 diabetes burden is attributable to social risk factors, such as high BMI, dietary risks, tobacco and alcohol use, and low physical activity, among others.

Racial disparities remain

The analysis suggests the highest prevalence of CVD and risk factors among people from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. This can be partly explained by demographic shifts in the U.S., as Asian and Hispanic populations will nearly double by 2060.

“However, much of the inequity we see in CVD and risk factors remains attributed to systemic racism, as well as socioeconomic factors and access to care,” Joynt Maddox, an associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in the statement.

Among those 20 and older, Black adults have the highest prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, while the total number of people with CVD will rise most among Hispanic adults.

Black children are predicted to have the highest prevalence of hypertension and diabetes by 2050. Meanwhile, the highest prevalence of obesity will be among Hispanic children.

Heart disease, a type of cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming over 700,000 lives a year. While healthy lifestyle choices may prevent some of the conditions, it is also crucial to improve access to care for people from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

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