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Research Highlight: Aging and Obesity Projected as Primary Drivers of Cardiovascular Disease Through 2030

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More Americans will be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease in the coming decades in spite of plummeting smoking rates and a growing reservoir of effective treatments, according to a new Weill Cornell Medical College research study.

Dr. Ankur Pandya

The study, published Oct. 7 in Health Affairs by lead author Dr. Ankur Pandya, assistant professor of public health from Weill Cornell Medical College, and researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University, highlights the implications for health and cost burdens that will result from increasing obesity levels and an aging population.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death and among the costliest health problems facing the United States. And this is not likely to change, the researchers say, especially if the obesity epidemic does not improve.

Fewer Americans are smoking and there are more effective treatments on the market to control blood pressure and cholesterol, changes that over the past few decades have led to fewer cardiovascular disease-related deaths, the researchers say. But despite gains in these areas, cardiovascular disease is and will continue to be a national scourge for decades because there will be more Americans who will live longer with the disease.

Using data from 1973 to 2010 reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers project that, unless obesity becomes less prevalent, the number of Americans diagnosed with cardiovascular disease will continue to skyrocket through 2030. This will result in increasing health care costs, disability and reductions in patients' quality of life, researchers say.

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