By Stephanie Stahl


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After decades of declines, deaths from cardiovascular disease are on the rise again. The numbers are huge, and they show the country has taken a turn in the wrong direction when it comes to heart disease. The study says almost half of American adults have some type of cardiovascular disease.

Many Americans are not healthy.

The new report from the American Heart Association says that 48 percent of Americans — or more than 121 million adults — have some type of cardiovascular disease, or CVD.

“Heart disease remains the number one killer in this country of men and women,” said Dr. Daniel Edmundowicz, chief of cardiology at Temple University Hospital.  “Our greatest health care expenditure in this country is essentially on manifestations of heart disease.”

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Dr. Edmundowicz isn’t surprised by the report that says more than 840,000 Americans died from cardiovascular disease in 2016, an increase over the previous year.

“Even though we associate heart disease, perhaps, as someone with a lot of symptoms — chest pain, needing a heart catheterization or bypass surgery — heart disease as defined by early cholesterol accumulation in the vessels, not causing any symptoms, happens much earlier,” said Edmundowicz.

The increased heart disease numbers are also partly due to a change in the way high blood pressure is defined.

People are now classified as hypertensive if their blood pressure is 130/80 or above. The previous threshold was 140/90.

“Virtually all heart attacks and strokes — this would be heart and vascular disease that people recognize — but these are, virtually all of them are preventable,” Dr. Edmundowicz said.

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Eight in 10 cases of CVD can be prevented by better managing high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Good heart health also depends of having a good diet and getting regular exercise.

Doctors say smoking is probably one of the worst things for your heart, and the report says fewer people are lighting up, which is a positive trend.

Stephanie Stahl