Heart health is about more than feeling good. It’s about dollars and cents.
A lot of dollars and cents.
A new study from the American Heart Association (AHA) reports cardiovascular disease (CVD), if unchecked, will place a “crushing economic burden” on the United States over the next 20 years, costing American workers and employers while straining the country’s financial and health care systems.
“In addition to the staggering human toll it takes on Americans’ lives and health, CVD wreaks havoc on our economy,” the AHA reported in a news release announcing the study. “Currently, CVD is the costliest disease in our nation, with a price tag of $555 billion in 2016. Yet, today’s study suggests that the economic burden of CVD will only get worse. By 2035, costs will be in the trillions.”
Think about a $1 trillion bill, every year. Just for heart disease. That’s about $3,000 for every person in the country every year.
Any time, any place
During a conference call to announce the new findings, AHA volunteer Shane Mandel told his personal story.
He said he learned the hard way that heart disease can strike anyone.
He was 34 and an avid cyclist in good shape when he sought medical help with what he thought was persistent heartburn. He ended up in a hospital when doctors discovered he had suffered a heart attack.
A victim of genetics, Mandel had no idea he had a heart condition that could have killed him.
“I never thought about what would happen if I was gone tomorrow,” he said. “I was suddenly faced with my own mortality.”
Mandel said he spent months in rehabilitation, frequently missing work, and he continually monitors his health now.
Think it can’t happen to you? The American Heart Association estimates that by 2035:
• 123.2 million Americans will have high blood pressure (up from 6.5 million in 2014, the latest figures available from the American Heart Association).
• 24 million will be heart disease patients.
• 11.2 million will be suffering from stroke.
By age 45, the average American’s risk of heart disease is 50%. That jumps to 80% by age 65.
Factors: It’s partly everyone’s business
Heart Association President Steven Houser, Ph.D., in a telephone news conference, said the aging of the Baby Boomer generation is one factor leading to the growing prevalence of CDV. But Americans, he said, have also adopted increasingly unhealthy lifestyles in recent years, leading to a spike in type 2 diabetes and obesity, both contributing factors to heart disease.
Years of earlier progress combating CDV has stalled, the study reports.
The good news is that the study reports CDV is largely preventable and prevention programs offer a big return on investment.
The study recommends a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, regular screenings, and a healthy diet.
“A focus on prevention in the workplace is a win both for employees and employers,” the study reports. “Prevention strategies keep workers healthy and productive and help employers steer clear of economic losses.”
Things to Consider: Heart disease doesn’t go away by itself. It takes action. The American Heart Association offers these tips for heart health:
• Eat smart: Cook at home, control the amount of salt and the kind of ingredients you eat.
• Stock up: Keep your kitchen stocked with fruits, vegetables and other healthy food.
• Get moving: A good starting goal is 150 minutes of exercise a week. Find an exercise that you like, whether that’s walking, running, or even a group dance class.