Nearly half of US adults have heart or blood vessel disease, study says

High blood pressure is the major culprit

About half of US adults have heart or blood vessel disease

(AP/Gray News) – A new report estimates that nearly half of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association said in a report Thursday that more than 121 million adults, or 48 percent, had heart or blood vessel disease in 2016.

The organization defines cardiovascular disease as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke or high blood pressure.

The report also notes that deaths blamed on cardiovascular disease are on the rise again after decades of declines.

More than 840,600 deaths were reported in 2016, up about 4,000 from a year earlier.

The numbers Americans with cardiovascular disease grew mostly due to recent guidelines that expanded how many people have high blood pressure.

Previously, the definition of high blood pressure was 140/90 or above. People whose blood pressure is 130/80 or above are now considered “hypertensive.”

“As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, this overwhelming presence of high blood pressure can’t be dismissed from the equation in our fight against cardiovascular disease,” said Ivor J. Benjamin, director of the Cardiovascular Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “Research has shown that eliminating high blood pressure could have a larger impact on CVD deaths than the elimination of all other risk factors among women and all except smoking among men.”

High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, strokes and many other problems, and only about half of those with the condition have it under control.

Being diagnosed with high blood pressure doesn't necessarily mean you need medication right away; the first step is aiming for a healthier lifestyle, even for those who are prescribed medicine. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure.

The report is an annual update by the heart association, the National Institutes of Health and others. It was published in the medical journal Circulation.

Other highlights:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease is linked to 1 of every 3 deaths in the United States and kills more Americans than all forms of cancer and respiratory diseases like pneumonia combined.
  • Certain groups have higher rates than others; 57 percent of black women and 60 percent of black males.
  • Coronary heart disease, or clogged or hardened arteries, caused 43 percent of cardiovascular deaths in the U.S., followed by stroke (17 percent), high blood pressure (10 percent) and heart failure (9 percent).

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