Heart disease, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases kill more than 800,000 adults each year – and 150,000 of them are under 65, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control. Two of the biggest risk factors are high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Both of these can be treated with medication but as the CDC pointed out in a disturbing report this week, two out of three people who could benefit from this treatment don't get it.
You would think that a lack of health insurance is the problem – but you would be wrong. The CDC report found that 80 percent of people who don't get treatment have health insurance. So what are the barriers?
The CDC blames the way health care is delivered. Clinicians aren't monitoring these two risk factors despite the fact that more than half of men 20 to 35 and women 20 to 45 are at risk for heart disease because of high blood pressure, smoking or obesity. The agency suggests a change in policy to encourage more doctors to look for these problems, especially in younger people.
While lifestyle factors are important, genetics plays a role as well. A new study by the American Heart Association found that female heart patients were more likely to have mothers who had suffered a stroke than fathers who had. That suggests that gender may play a role in how cardiovascular disease is inherited so it's smart to know your family's medical history.
For more about risk factors for heart disease and what you can do about them, click here.