Heart disease and strokes, despite being largely preventable, are responsible for more than 2 million hospitalizations each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Now, a recent report shows progress in preventing heart disease and strokes in the U.S. has hit a plateau, especially with middle-aged adults.
According to the report, there were 2.2 million heart-related hospitalizations in 2016. Among those, more than 775,000 were people between the ages of 35 to 64.
Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, said an increase in heart-related risks often comes down to two factors.
“The two most prominent factors are our increased sedentary lifestyle -- we’re just not doing as much physical activity (as) we once did," he said. "And then secondary, the access to processed food that is really unhealthy for you."
Laffin said our weight definitely plays an important role in our risk for heart disease.
Recent CDC estimates show 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese. And when statistics for people who are just overweight, but not obese, are included, that number climbs to 70 percent.
Laffin said it’s critical to try and keep weight to a healthy level because excess pounds predispose us to elevated "numbers" -- which include BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose.
He stresses the importance of knowing your numbers -- which allows you to have an open and honest conversation with your health care provider about what needs to be done to get to, or maintain, those ideal numbers.
Laffin said one of the best things we can do for our heart health, in middle age, is set up good dietary habits.
“The major thing is setting good dietary habits to keep off excess weight,” he said. “Once you get out of your 20s you’ll notice that it’s not as easy to keep the weight off. You don’t want to partake in crash-dieting or doing the latest fad-dieting -- instead, set a diet of moderation that is sustainable for 40, 50 or 60 more years.”
According to Laffin, middle age is the time we need to start making heart-healthy improvements because our overall risk is still low. However, our risk for heart-related trouble only increases as we age, especially if we have unhealthy numbers for many years.