With A Burden So Great, Why Is Funding So Scant?

the American Heart Association

“Though we’ve been gloried in success, we still have unfinished business” when it comes to tackling cardiovascular disease, said NHLBI Director Dr. Gary Gibbons, highlighting the findings of a new American Heart Association-commissioned analysis at an event in Washington, D.C. last week.

The report presented data on what lies ahead in cardiovascular disease prevalence and costs over the next few decades.

Projections found more than 131 million people – or about 45 percent of the U.S. population – could suffer from cardiovascular disease by 2035, and annual costs related to this – both direct medical costs and lost productivity – could surpass $1 trillion; that’s more than all other chronic diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

Though we’ve made storied progress in fighting America’s no. 1 killer, CVD mortality rates have flattened to less than 1 percent per year since 2011, and worsened for our most at-risk populations. And in 2015, the death rate from heart disease actually increased by 1 percent for the first time since 1969, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

According to projections, at 24 a person’s risk for CVD is just 20 percent, but by age 45 chances more than double to 50 percent. By age 80, ninety percent of Americans will have some sort of CVD.

Put simply, the burden of cardiovascular disease is growing faster than our ability to combat it due to the obesity epidemic, poor diet, high blood pressure and a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes—all major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

And it’s not just affecting the nation’s health – our wallets are also feeling the burn.

In 2014, stroke and heart failure were the most expensive chronic conditions in the Medicare fee-for-service program, and expenses are expected to soar in the coming years. According to projections, costs will triple for Hispanics with CVD, more than double among blacks and be higher for women than men.

It is a price no American should have to pay, and it’s not one we can afford to ignore. 

Even though heart disease and stroke account for 23 percent and 4 percent of all deaths respectively, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests a meager 4 percent of its budget on heart disease research, a mere 1 percent on stroke research and only 2 percent on other CVD research.

Over the past century, NIH-funded biomedical research has helped cut the death rate for coronary disease and stroke by nearly 70 percent. But our work is not done.

The skyrocketing prevalence and cost of cardiovascular disease make adequate investment in research more crucial than ever before. Policymakers, advocates and scientists must work together to ensure funding for medical research is commensurate with its toll on our nation so we can continue to work toward finding innovative cures for heart disease and stroke.

To learn more about the report, visit www.heart.org/burden

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