More than 1 in 4 deaths from cardiovascular diseases could be prevented with lifestyle changes or medical treatment, according to a government report.

Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer of Americans, claiming nearly 800,000 lives per year. More than 200,000 of those deaths could be prevented through the changes outlined in the government report – with more than half of the preventable deaths among people 65 or younger.

“This new CDC report sends a very clear message to our nation:  Prevention is the key to conquering cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.  “It’s a point we hope all Americans will hear and pay attention to, especially young people.”

The American Heart Association predicts that that the heart health of Americans will improve only 6 percent in the next decade if we don’t start making changes now, according to the association’s 2013 statistical update on cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

“We must address the growing rates of obesity, especially among children, improve our diets, and increase our physical activity because the current rate of cardiovascular disease is escalating,” Brown said.

Heart disease and stroke can happen at any age and it’s never too soon to start lowering your risks.

Progress made, challenges remain

By 2030, the American Heart Association estimates that almost 44 percent of all Americans – a total of 122 million – will have some form of cardiovascular disease. The combined direct and indirect medical costs probably will exceed $1.1 trillion. Annual costs for people age 65 to 79 alone will jump 144 percent — from $215 billion in 2013 to $524 billion in 2030.

Despite progress in smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure rates, the rates of obesity and diabetes are on the rise and must be addressed for heart disease and stroke deaths to drop 20 percent by 2020, a major American Heart Association goal.

The biggest barriers to success in changing this trend are projected increases in the rates of obesity and diabetes, and only modest improvements in diet and physical activity.

Small steps, like walking a few minutes a day or grabbing a piece of fruit instead of candy, can make a big difference in keeping your heart and brain healthy. 

 The American Heart Association also has a wide range of programs and policy initiatives that help by: 

  • Working with healthcare systems to support and reward providers who help patients improve their health behaviors and manage their health risk factors.
  • Working with insurers to cover preventive health services and reward positive health behaviors and medication adherence.
  • Working with the education community to make changes in schools that support healthy diets and physical activity for children.
  • Building comprehensive worksite wellness programs.
  • Building healthier communities with improved access to healthier foods and green space for physical activity.

And a new law is paving the way for more Americans to take care of their heart health. The Affordable Care Act will make preventive services available with no cost-sharing to most Americans. Starting Oct. 1, those who are uninsured will have new coverage options with the opening of Health Insurance Marketplaces in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. 

“We hope many Americans will take advantage of these options and get started on their way to a healthier life free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” Brown said.

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