Even more progress against coronary heart disease

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Six percent of adults were told by a health professional last year that they have coronary heart disease (CHD), according to the results of a national survey conducted by the CDC. Published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, these data constitute a significant decrease compared to 2006, when 6.7 percent of adults were diagnosed with the disease.

Characterized by a narrowing of blood vessels to the heart that can cause chest pain or heart attack, the drop in the incidence of CHD is attributed to decreased smoking rates as well as better detection and treatment of hypertension and high cholesterol. The prevalence of CHD, however, varies considerably by age, gender, ethnicity, and geography and heart disease still remains the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Given the decline in CHD-associated mortality over the last several decades, it would be logical to assume that the prevalence of CHD would have actually increased over the past few years, since people are now living longer with the disease. Paradoxically, however, the incidence of CHD has been steadily decreasing, which, as ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross explains, is a double benefit, since fewer people are dying from it and among those living, the number of CHD cases are decreasing as well. And all of this despite the fact that obesity and diabetes are increasing, which are certainly risk factors for CHD. So, while we continually call attention to the flaws in our healthcare system, a moment of reflection upon the amazing improvement in the toll of heart disease over the past two decades is now called for.