Heart Disease: Good News and Disturbing Trends

A new study released this week offers the encouraging news that death rates from cardiovascular disease have declined 28 percent since the late 1990s.  That speaks well for the strides made by various health industry sectors in developing improved treatments, drugs and technologies to help those with heart disease live longer lives.

The news isn’t all good, however.  According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Veronique L. Roger of the Mayo Clinic, “there are also more costs in terms of dollars and in terms of the cost to individuals who are living with heart disease instead of disease-free lives.”

Dr. Roger’s research shows that the cost of preventing and treating heart disease in 2007 was an estimated $286 billion, more than was spent to treat cancer cases or any other diagnostic group. 

This drives home the point that no matter what the United States does in health reform to expand coverage and encourage more cost-efficient medical practice, it will be a very difficult task to get healthcare costs under control if we don’t take bold steps to attack the rising incidences of chronic disease.

The rising cost to treat heart disease has many factors, not the least of which are the facts that two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, more than 36 percent have prediabetes and approximately one in every five individuals still smokes.  A number of workplaces are having tremendous success with various fitness and wellness incentive programs, achieving healthier labor forces.  More than ever, we need to implement the best of the wellness lessons we’ve learned in our communities, our schools and our workplaces.  This new study further reaffirms the link between healthcare costs and preventable chronic disease.