Study: Heart disease patients increasing, living longer

The proportion of Americans with heart disease will both increase and live longer, increasing healthcare costs, according to an October study in Health Affairs.

In recent decades, some heart disease risk factors, such as smoking rates, have dropped, while treatment rates have increased. However, other risk factors have increased in the same period, including average body mass index and diabetes rates, according to the study. The researchers analyzed the nine waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted from 1973 to 2010 to project future rates.

They predicted the average 10-year risk of heart disease to rise to 15.1 percent for men and 8.6 percent for women in 2030, compared 12.7 percent for men and 6.8 percent for women in 1991. While rates of heart disease are projected to rise, age-adjusted mortality rates fell from 517 per 100,000 in 1981 to 244 per 100,000 in 2008, according to the study.

Although the study makes multiple recommendations for reducing the rate of heart disease, including patients seeking proper treatment for high blood pressure and cholesterol and increasing medication compliance, lead researcher Ankur Pandya, an assistant professor of public health at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical College, said healthcare providers also must play a role.

"Our model from the study forecasts that we're going to see an increase in the number of acute cardiovascular events," Pandya told Becker's Hospital Review. "This would imply that if hospitals could improve the efficiency in how they handle cardiovascular disease, it could have a real impact."

The study expressed hope that healthcare reform, with its emphasis on expanded access to care and incentivizing outcomes, will reduce the incidences of cardiovascular disease as well. "The effectiveness of such polices will be instrumental in determining the ultimate prevalence and incidence of cardiovascular disease in the future, and their effects," the study states.

Cardiovascular disease is the costliest disease category in the United States, Pandya told Becker's. Coronary heart disease alone costs the nation an average of more than $100 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract and study (.pdf, subscription required)
- read the Becker's article
- read the CDC fact sheet