Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Lopsided decline in heart disease deaths

Heart Beat

Lopsided decline in heart disease deaths

Since the 1960s, death rates from heart disease have fallen steadily — more in men than women — thanks to better treatments and an emphasis on prevention. That trend looks to be ending and could even reverse itself. A report in the Nov. 27, 2007, Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that death rates from coronary artery disease actually increased a bit among women between the ages of 35 and 54 since 2000 and have been virtually flat for men. Chalk up this reversal to the dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes, both of which promote heart disease.

While the increase accounts for an extra 100 or so deaths a year — a drop in the bucket compared with the 500,000 Americans felled annually by coronary artery disease — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers who did the study call it the "leading edge of a brewing storm." Without greater attention to prevention, young women and men will ease into old age with an extra burden of cardiovascular risk that will translate into more heart disease and more deaths from it.

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