By Dennis Thompson
THURSDAY, Sept. 6, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Millions of Americans aren't taking simple steps that could ward off a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke, a new government report shows.
Heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related conditions caused 2.2 million hospitalizations in 2016, new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
Many of these emergencies occurred because people aren't effectively managing the risk factors that increase their odds of a heart attack or stroke, CDC officials say.
Enter the Million Hearts initiative, which intends to prevent 1 million life-threatening heart health crises by 2022. How? It will focus on what officials call the "ABCS" of heart health -- Aspirin use, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management and Smoking cessation.
"We are battling a fearsome foe, and indications are strong we are losing ground," Dr. Janet Wright, executive director of Million Hearts, said during a Thursday media briefing on the findings. "We know what works to prevent heart attack and stroke, and it turns out the little things are the big things."
""We don't need a new widget or miracle drug to end cardiovascular disease," Wright added. "We do need everyone to find the small step they can start today."
The CDC report showed the need for such action. It found that 71 million adults don't exercise, 54 million still smoke and 40 million have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
And 9 million adults don't take aspirin as recommended to thin their blood, while 39 million people have high cholesterol levels.
The country as a whole could reach the Million Hearts goal if every state reduced its share of heart health emergencies by 6 percent, the new CDC study estimated.
Heart-related hospitalizations ended in 415,000 deaths and cost $32.7 billion in the United States in 2016, the CDC said.
Heart attacks and strokes accounted for about half of hospitalizations and two-thirds of deaths, the CDC found. Heart failure and heart disease contributed to the rest.
A good number of heart health emergencies occurred in young and middle-aged adults. People aged 35 to 64 experienced more than 75,000 heart-related deaths and more than 775,000 hospitalizations in 2016.
""We know middle age can be a ticking time bomb for heart disease, because this is when many risks for heart disease begin to take their toll," CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said during the media briefing.
"About 80 percent of deaths from premature heart disease and stroke could be prevented by changes in physical activity, diet, smoking and management of common medical conditions," she added. "The good news is it's not too late to make small changes that matter to heart health."
Still, a review of strategies to protect heart health found that only 61 percent of eligible patients are using aspirin to prevent a first or repeat heart attack, down from 69 percent in 2011.
In addition, only 48 percent of people have their blood pressure at healthy levels, and only 54 percent of people with high cholesterol take a statin to lower those levels, CDC researchers said.
Smoking rates have declined, from 25 percent of adults in 2011 to 22 percent in 2016, the CDC said. But that still leaves tens of millions harming their health through the deadly habit.
And 3 out of 10 American adults are physically inactive, partaking in no leisure-time exercise whatsoever.
"The solution for this national crisis does not depend on a brilliant new discovery or a breakthrough in science," said Wright, a board-certified cardiologist.
"The solution already lies deep within every person, community and health care setting across America," Wright said. "Small changes -- the right changes, sustained over time -- can produce huge improvements in cardiovascular health."
The new CDC data appears in its Sept. 6 Vital Signs report.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about Million Hearts.
SOURCE: Sept. 6, 2018, media briefing with: Anne Schuchat, M.D., principal deputy director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Jane Wright, M.D., executive director, Million Hearts initiative; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sept. 6, 2018, Vital Signs
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