November 13, 2008

U.S. Heart Disease Risk Has Flatlined

The U.S. health trend over the past 30 years of less heart disease is not as strong as perceived and has flattened, a U.S. researcher said.

Lead researcher Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez said the analysis of national data by Mayo Clinic researchers suggests the public health challenge of curbing heart disease may be greater than is commonly thought.

"This study may surprise people because the data show that the risk of heart disease is not going down as we expected," Lopez-Jimenez said in a statement. "The estimated risk in our nation was coming down nicely in the 1980s. Then around 2000 it began changing -- the trend lines flattened. While we had done a nice job with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and stopping smoking, over time the improvement in these risk factors slowed and others like diabetes and obesity emerged, threatening to undo the early progress we made in reducing risk of heart disease."

Most of the gains in reducing heart disease risk have been offset by the increased prevalence of diabetes and obesity, the study said.

Lopez-Jimenez presented the findings at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in New Orleans.