Strikingly, many of the heart events were seen in middle-aged adults, age 35 to 64. About 775,000 hospitalizations and 75,000 deaths occurred within this group in 2016.
"Middle age can be a ticking time bomb for heart disease," CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said at a press briefing Thursday. That's because many of the risk factors negatively impacting heart health tend to become more prevalent at that time. These include medical conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as unhealthy habits like smoking and lack of physical activity.
The study sheds light on the staggering number of heart-related deaths and hospitalizations resulting from controllable and preventable causes.
Specifically, the report found that:
- 9 million American adults are not taking aspirin as recommended.
- 40 million adults do not have their high blood pressure under control.
- 39 million adults could benefit from managing their cholesterol.
- 54 million adults are smokers – most of whom want to quit.
- 71 million adults are not physically active.
"The solution for this national crisis does not depend on a brilliant new discovery or a breakthrough in science," Janet Wright, M.D., a board certified cardiologist and executive director of Million Hearts, said in a statement. "The solution already lies deep within every person, community, and health care setting across America. Small changes – the right changes, sustained over time – can produce huge improvements in cardiovascular health."
Million Hearts, an initiative co-led by the CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, has put forth the goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2022.
Health officials say this can be achieved if every state reduces the number of cardiovascular-related events by 6 percent.
"It's ambitious goal but the lives of our loved ones are in the balance and it's the kind of goal that we really need to achieve," Schuchat said.
The report calls for state and local governments, as well as community organizations, to adopt smoke-free policies; provide safe, accessible and affordable places for community members to get exercise; and raise awareness about heart attack and stroke prevention. For their part, health care professionals are urged focus on the "ABCs" of heart health, which stands for:
- Aspirin use when appropriate,
- Blood pressure control,
- Cholesterol management, and
- Smoking cessation.
The report also encourages employers to ensure smoke-free spaces, provide access to healthy food and beverages in vending machines and facilities, and provide on-site blood pressure monitoring and physical activity programs.
Finally, the researchers call for everyone to take steps to start one new healthy behavior today, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, getting physically active, or quitting smoking.
"Preventing heart disease and stroke is everyone's business," Wright said. "We each have a role to play."