Nearly Half of All U.S. Adults Have Some Form of Cardiovascular Disease

January 31, 2019, 8:36 PM UTC

Nearly half of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease, with the vast majority suffering from high blood pressure, states a new report from the American Heart Association.

Over 121 million adults—or 48% of the population—had coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, or high blood pressure (hypertension) in 2016, according to the report, which was published Thursday in the AHA journal Circulation. Excluding high blood pressure, this figure falls to 9% of the population.

The rise in cardiovascular disease is due in large part to the redefining of hypertension. In 2017, the AHA and American College of Cardiology changed the definition of high blood pressure to be a reading of 130/80, a drop from the previous definition of 140/90.

“We’re becoming more and more aware of the importance of high blood pressure. Levels we used to think were normal we now associate with worse outcomes, and treating them makes a big difference,” said Dr. Emelia J. Benjamin, a professor of cardiology at Boston University and chair of the group that wrote the AHA’s recent report, in a statement.

High blood pressure—which can lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, or other issues—can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes including more exercise, a healthier diet, and no smoking. Other patients can treat hypertension with medication.

The annual direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular diseases in the U.S. is estimated to be more than $350 billion, says the report. This includes more than $213 billion in direct healthcare costs and more than $137 billion in lost future productivity attributed to premature deaths.