Heart Disease Costs Projected to Skyrocket by 2035

A new report highlights the need for changes to reduce incidences of cardiovascular disease.

In less than 2 decades, costs associated with cardiovascular disease may exceed $1 trillion, placing substantial financial and health burdens on the United States.

According to a study published by the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 131.2 million Americans will have cardiovascular disease by 2035, which translates to roughly 45% of the population.

"Mostly driven by the aging of the population, the prevalence and costs of cardiovascular disease are expected to increase significantly in the next 20 years with total costs reaching over a $1.1 trillion by 2035," said lead study author Olga Khavjou.

These projections are updated from previous estimates published in 2011 that only 100 million Americans will develop cardiovascular disease by 2030. The 2011 prediction was seen to be accurate 15 years sooner than expected, according to the study. In 2015, the mortality rate from heart disease increased 1%, which was the first time it has risen since 1969.

The new report estimates that 123.2 million Americans will have high blood pressure, and 24 million will have coronary heart disease by 2035. An additional 11.2 million will have experienced a stroke, and 7.2 million individuals will have atrial fibrillation, according to the study.

The report also found that at age 45, the risk of cardiovascular disease will be approximately 50%, which skyrockets to 80% at age 65. Additionally, blacks will have the highest rate of cardiovascular disease, closely followed by Hispanics by 2035.

Interestingly, men will develop heart disease at a greater rate compared with women by 2035, according to the study. Currently, women are more likely to develop heart disease compared with men.

In addition to the burden on health, widespread cardiovascular disease can adversely impact the economy. It is currently the costliest disease, costing $555 billion in 2016, according to the study.

However, if initiatives are not put in place, the economic burden will only continue to increase. Costs related to cardiovascular disease are expected to triple among those aged 80 and older, and more than double among those aged 65 to 79.

Direct medical costs are expected to triple among Hispanics, double among blacks, and be higher for women than men, according to the study. Additionally, expenses for cardiovascular disease are projected to surpass cost estimates for Alzheimer’s disease and even diabetes.

Indirect costs related to cardiovascular disease are estimated to be more substantial among those aged 45 to 64. By 2035, the investigators found that 1 employee with cardiovascular disease costs 60 hours and more than $1100 in lost productivity, compared with employees without the disease, the AHA reported.

Although white Americans are projected to have the highest indirect costs, the investigators suggest that Hispanics may experience the largest increases in costs by 2035, according to the study.

In order to prevent some of the findings, the AHA suggests that the federal government make certain changes.

They suggest that additional funding for heart and stroke research should be provided to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to determine new ways to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. Currently, the NIH only invests 4% of its resources on cardiovascular disease. The AHA believes that increasing NIH research is the most effective way to decrease cardiovascular disease.

There should also be renewed focus on prevention to protect patients from cardiovascular disease, no matter their age. Patients should have continued access to high-quality healthcare to ensure that they are receiving preventive care, according to the study.

Under the Affordable Care Act, patients have access to preventative services, such as obtaining blood pressure and cholesterol screening, smoking cessation services, behavioral counseling for obesity, and improved access to primary care and prescription drugs, according to the report. Preserving access to these services may prove crucial to reducing cardiovascular disease-related costs.

Protection for patients with pre-existing conditions is also important for individuals who have developed cardiovascular disease. The report estimates that more than 50% of adults under age 65 would be excluded from coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

The AHA urges Congress to include a pre-existing condition provision in a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act to ensure that patients with heart disease do not lose health insurance and stop receiving necessary medical care as a result.

"While we have made tremendous progress in fighting cardiovascular disease, recently reported death rates and these projections reinforce that now is not the time to relax," said AHA President Steven Houser, PhD, FAHA. "We must continue to be vigilant, because if these projections become reality, a serious health and economic crisis is on the horizon. The association welcomes the opportunity to work with Congress and the new administration to find ways to wipe out the burden of cardiovascular disease and build an improved culture of health in our country."