Coronary Artery Disease Declining In U.S.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that the prevalence of self-reported coronary heart disease declined from 6.7% of the population in 2006, to 6% in 2010. Figures were obtained by telephone survey. Coronary heart disease, the main cause of heart attacks, remains the No.1 cause of death in the U.S.

Self-reports of heart disease may not be terribly reliable. However, I remember an autopsy study from Olmstead County, Minnesota, from 2001 that confirmed a lower prevalence of coronary heart disease there. I wrote about that at the NutritionData.com Heart Health Blog, but those posts may not be around much longer.

The CDC report mentioned also that mortality rates from coronary heart disease have been steadily declining for the last 50 years.

Improved heart disease morbidity and mortality figures probably reflect better control of risk factors (e.g., smoking, high blood pressure), as well as improved treatments. I’ve never seen an estimate of the effect of reduced trans fat consumption.

Obesity is always mentioned as a risk factor for heart disease, yet obesity rates have skyrocketed over the last 40 years. You’d guess heart disease prevalance to have risen, but you’d have guessed wrong. In view of high obesity rates, some pundits have even suggested that the current generation of Americans wil be the first to see a decrease in average life span.

The American Diabetes Association offers a free heart disease risk calculator, if you’re curious about your own odds. My recollection is that the calculator works whether or not you have diabetes.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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