9 in 10 Americans may develop heart disease in the future, study shows

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A recent study led by Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School has highlighted concerning trends in the cardiovascular, kidney, and metabolic health of Americans.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the research draws on data from federal health surveys conducted from 2011 through 2020, revealing that a vast majority of U.S. adults are affected by what is known as cardiovascular, kidney, and metabolic (CKM) syndrome.

CKM syndrome is a cluster of interrelated health issues that can progress over time and significantly raise the risk of developing heart disease. The syndrome is categorized into four stages:

  • Stage 1: Characterized by an excessive accumulation of body fat, which is an initial risk factor.
  • Stage 2: Involves the emergence of additional metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Stage 3: Marked by the development of high-risk kidney disease or a high likelihood of being diagnosed with heart disease within the next decade.
  • Stage 4: Defined by the diagnosis of heart disease, which may occur with or without accompanying kidney disease.

The findings of the study are stark. Only 10.6% of adults aged 20 or older were free from any stage of CKM syndrome. About 26% of adults were at the initial stage of accumulating excessive body fat, and nearly half of the adult population (49%) had advanced to stage 2, involving serious metabolic risks.

Furthermore, 5.4% were in stage 3, facing imminent high-risk conditions, and 9.2% were suffering from full-blown heart disease, with some experiencing kidney failure.

The severity of CKM syndrome was found to increase with age. Among those 65 years or older, over half (55.3%) were in the more advanced stages of the syndrome. This compares to 10.7% of those aged 45 to 64, and just 2.1% of those aged 20 to 44.

However, the prevalence among the younger group is also significant, with 81.8% of Americans aged 20 to 44 already affected by early-stage risk factors.

Race and ethnicity also played a role in the prevalence of CKM syndrome, with Black Americans found to be 38% more likely to suffer from the condition compared to their White counterparts.

This extensive analysis shows that almost 90% of U.S. adults meet the criteria for at least stage 1 of CKM syndrome, and 15% are at the advanced stages of the condition.

These figures have remained relatively stable over the nine-year period of the study, underscoring a persistent public health challenge.

The study emphasizes the critical need for improved public health strategies and individual lifestyle changes to combat the rising prevalence of these interlinked health issues.

As these conditions often develop silently and gradually, increasing awareness and early intervention are key to reversing these troubling trends.

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The research findings can be found in JAMA.

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