Have Declines in Heart Disease Deaths Ended?

Jack of HeartsNew data on deaths for 2020 from CDC present a stark picture. The rate of deaths due to heart disease rose by more than three percent in 2020. This has happened only one other time in the last 20 years. In 2015, the death rate rose by less than a percent. Even more dramatically, the rate of deaths from diabetes rose by 14 percent in 2020. This was the biggest increase in decades.

Of course, COVID-19 came out of nowhere to become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. But long after we have the pandemic under control, mortality from heart disease and diabetes will continue to be a challenge. A big driver for both of these is untreated obesity.

Disturbing Trends Before COVID

Even before COVID, these trends were becoming apparent. The signs were all around two years ago. Progress in reducing mortality from heart disease was grinding to a halt, as cardiologist Steven Nissen described back then:

“At best, progress has slowed to a halt, and, at worst, our rates of cardiovascular disease are going up. And the cause, pretty much everybody agrees, is the obesity epidemic and all of its downstream consequences.”

COVID seems to have made this worse. Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that deaths due to ischemic heart disease started rising early in the pandemic.

Blowing the Lid Off

In so many ways, this infectious disease pandemic has revealed a crisis of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that health policy has neglected. Countries with the highest obesity rates suffered more deaths from COVID-19. Diabetes and heart disease are growing because of the unrelenting growth in obesity prevalence. The policy response has been tepid and ineffectual. “Eat more healthy foods! Let’s move!” Admonitions and taxes have yet to move the needle.

Meanwhile, so-called health plans routinely deny people with obesity access to effective care for obesity. So the disease progresses. We need better access to care, along with more curiosity and objectivity about prevention strategies that will really work.

Without that, the rise in heart disease, diabetes, and other NCDs will continue to take precious lives from us.

Click here for reporting on these new stats, here for the data from CDC, and here for further perspective. For the research from JACC, click here. Finally, for more on mortality trends in diabetes, click here.

Jack of Hearts, painting by Olga Rozanova / WikiArt

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June 10, 2021

One Response to “Have Declines in Heart Disease Deaths Ended?”

  1. June 11, 2021 at 1:04 am, David Brown said:

    The role of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid in obesity does not get publicized because of the anti-saturated fat campaign.[1] The edible oils industry is largely responsible for keeping omega-6 research out of the limelight.[2]

    It’s likely heart disease and obesity have a common cause.[3]

    Web page references
    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093368/
    2. https://thesoynutritioninstitute.com/linoleic-acid-not-to-blame-for-the-obesity-epidemic/
    3. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/2/e000898