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Middle-age adults ‘losing ground’ in fight against heart disease

CDC report says fewer Americans are dying of cancer, but deaths from heart disease are on the rise

The heart disease in middle age adults is seeing an uptick, according to a new report.

The heart disease death rate for middle-age men and women had declined 22% from 1999 to 2011. It then increased 4% from 2011 to 2017, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

So, the rate in 2017 was 19% lower than the 1999 rate, which is good news. But the upward trend in recent years is not.

Middle-age adults are “losing ground,” Dr. Sharonne Hayes, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, told NBC News. Hayes was not involved with the CDC report. 

“We’ve got to stop patting ourselves on the back” about the decreasing rates of heart disease deaths, Hayes said. “We’ve taken our feet off the gas pedal.”

Hayes told NBC there are likely multiple factors causing this upward trend. First, the rates of obesity, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle — all risk factors for heart disease — are going up. 

Also, adults ages 45-64 are less likely to have medical insurance. Adults ages 65 and up usually have access to Medicare, and adults 20-44 are either on their parents’ insurance plan or get coverage through work.

Both the younger and older age groups saw declines in heart disease deaths through 2017, according to the report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The report was published Wednesday in National Vital Statistics Reports.

The upside to these findings is that “90% of cardiovascular disease is preventable,”  according to Dr. Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer at the American Heart Association.

Jessup told CNN the way to prevent heart disease deaths is simple: exercise more, don't smoke, keep your blood pressure under control and maintain an ideal weight.

The same report noted that cancer death rates continue to decline. The cancer death rate for adults ages 45-64 declined 19% from 1999 to 2017. The decline in the cancer death rate was greater for 1999-2007 and 2014-2017 than for 2007-2014.

Cancer and heart disease are the two leading causes of death in people ages 45-64, responsible for half of all deaths in this age group, the CDC noted. 

You can read the full report on the CDC website.

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