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Nearly half of American adults have heart or blood vessel disease

A detailed, geometric illustration of the human torso and arm done in blue lines. Within the chest, the heart is illustrated in red and orange.

March 5, 2019—Nearly half of adults in the U.S—or 121.5 million people—have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a new report estimates.

CVD harms the heart and blood vessels. That includes clogged coronary arteries, heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure.

The report's findings are based on 2016 data. The report also showed that after dropping in recent years, deaths from CVD are on the rise. In 2016, CVD caused 840,678 deaths. That's up from 836,546 in 2015.

Tougher guidelines

That CVD is so widespread now likely reflects stricter guidelines defining high blood pressure. In 2017, high blood pressure was redefined as a reading of 130/80 mm Hg. Before then, the threshold was 140/90 mm Hg. That change meant millions more Americans are now considered to have CVD.

But however it's defined, high blood pressure is a dangerous risk factor for heart disease and stroke. That's why keeping it in a healthy range is so crucial.

By some estimates, 80 percent of all CVD could be prevented by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes and making healthy lifestyle choices, like eating well and not smoking.

The study appeared in the journal Circulation.

Medical costs matter too

In another study related to CVD, researchers reported that nearly half of non-elderly U.S. adults with atherosclerotic CVD can't afford their medical bills—another concerning medical milestone.

If you need medication for CVD but can't pay for it, be sure to tell your doctor—instead of skipping it. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a less expensive medicine that works just as well. Your doctor might also point you toward programs that provided free or discounted medicine.

The first step is speaking up.

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