A recent vital statistics report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates cancer and heart disease remain the two leading causes of death for middle-aged Americans.
However, while cancer death rates are declining, the opposite is true for heart disease deaths.
“Middle-aged Americans are dying more frequently, over the past six years, from cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic. “This is in contrast to the prior 15 years when death rates from cardiovascular disease were declining.”
Laffin said heart disease was historically considered to be a disease of older men, but these latest statistics show us otherwise.
The report actually shows heart disease deaths declining for those over the age of 65.
However, Americans between the ages of 44-65, and especially women, saw increases in death from heart disease.
Laffin said conditions such as obesity and diabetes, which are known contributors to heart disease, are also on the rise and are likely playing a role in these results.
If you’re middle-aged -- even if you’re feeling fine -- he said it’s important to see your doctor every year and get screened.
“It’s really important for individuals to understand that even if you’re in your mid-forties and feeling okay, that we should be aggressive about addressing cardiovascular risk factors,” he said. “We’re great at making sure people have their colonoscopies, and their cervical cancer screenings, and their mammography, but it’s equally important to get your blood pressure checked, and to make sure your weight is at a stable level, and to make sure your cholesterol is well-controlled.”
Laffin urges people to think beyond the next five years of their lives and think about what they need to do to be healthy for the next 20-35 years. He said creating sustainable healthy habits is the key to warding off heart disease.
“It’s really important to understand your risk factors and not ignore them,” he said. “We’re understanding that weight, diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia -- they all increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.”