Fewer Heart Concerns for Middle-Aged Americans

Coronary heart disease on the decline despite an increase in obesity and diabetes

(RxWiki News) The baby boomers are approaching the age of Medicare eligibility. Many Americans wonder about their health and what to expect as they age. The good news is that they are having less heart disease.

The rate of diabetes and obesity has steadily increased in America. These two conditions put people at risk for heart attacks and death.

A recent study found that the risk of middle-aged adults developing heart disease has decreased in the last 10 years. The study authors noted that this is interesting because of the increases in diabetes and obesity during the same time period.

"Eat healthy and don't smoke to prevent heart problems as you age."

Dr. Ellen Kramarow, PhD, of National Center for Health Statistics, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues led the study to look at the population of people in the United States and their risk of developing coronary heart disease. The study focused on the 45 to 64 age range.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Surveys from two time periods. The time periods were 1988 to 1994 and 2005 to 2008. The survey is ongoing and is used to monitor the health of Americans.

The researchers also used an estimate of heart disease risk, based on the Framingham Heart Study. The risk estimate can calculate a 10-year risk of heart attack or death and is based on data collected for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking.

The study used the data from the survey and the risk calculation from the heart study to estimate risks of heart attack and death based on gender, race and age group (45-54 versus 55-64 years old).

Results showed that the overall risk of heart attack or death had decreased. The 10-year risk for the 45 to 54 age group had decreased by 20 percent between the two time periods used. This included a reduced risk in men by 23 percent and by 14 percent in women.

For the people in the 55 to 64 age range, their 10-year risk decreased by 26 percent. This decline was true for both genders and non-Hispanic races.

Researchers attribute the decline in risk to quicker diagnosis of diabetes and more people controlling their high blood pressure and cholesterol. While the number of obese people has not declined, treatment of their health conditions has improved. The researchers attributed the smaller decrease in risk for women to a later start in quitting smoking.

The authors noted several limitations in their study. The risk estimate they used did not always have the level of data they desired. For example, reported levels of cholesterol did not include whether the person took medication for it. Also, the risk estimate was calculated a long time ago and does not take into account medical advances. The risk estimate also does not include obesity as a measure by itself. This is an issue because of the role obesity has in putting people at risk for heart problems.

The study - titled "Trends in the coronary heart disease risk profile of middle-aged adults" - was published in the Annals of Epidemiology. It was aided in risk calculations by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Dr. Ellen Kramarow and co-authors disclosed no conflict of interest.

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Review Date: 
January 10, 2013