The costs of heart disease in the United States will triple between now and 2030, to more than $800 billion a year, a report commissioned by the American Heart Association predicted Monday.
Treating high blood pressure will be the most expensive part of the cost, rising to $389 billion by 2030, the report projects, with overall heart disease rising by 10 percent by then.
The report is bad news for the United States, which already has the highest per capita health care costs in the developed world and is struggling to lower expenses. Last week the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform, in part, they said, because it did not cut costs.
Dr. Paul Heidenreich of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California and colleagues looked at current costs of heart disease, the U.S. population and trends in behavior and illness for the first such projection of heart disease costs.
"Between 2010 and 2030, real total direct medical costs of cardiovascular disease are projected to triple, from $272.5 billion to $818.1 billion," reads the report, published in the journal Circulation.
"Annual costs directly attributable to hypertension are projected to increase $130.4 billion (in real 2008 dollars) in 2030 compared with 2010, for a total projected annual cost of $200.3 billion by 2030."
If high blood pressure as a risk factor for, say, stroke and kidney failure is factored in, the total cost of treating it will be $389 billion, the report said.
Most heart disease preventable
"The current study found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease will increase by 10 percent over the next 20 years under status-quo cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment trends (ie, assuming no change to current policy), whereas the direct costs will increase almost three-fold," the report reads.
"By 2030, we estimate that 40 percent of U.S. adults, or 116 million people, will have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease."
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and most other developed countries. It accounts for 17 percent of U.S. health spending.
"As the population ages, these costs are expected to increase substantially," the report said.
Health care spending grew to 17.6 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2009, from 16.6 percent the year before.
U.S. government data released this month show that spending on hospital services, doctor visits, medicines and other health needs rose 4 percent to $2.5 trillion in 2009.
Most heart disease is preventable with better diet and more exercise, according to the Heart Association. And many patients do not take their heart disease drugs as directed, or are not prescribed the optimal regimen, further raising costs.
One easy fix would be for Americans to eat less salt, the report recommended.
"A recent analysis using the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model estimated that reducing dietary salt by 3 grams per day per person would reduce the annual number of new cases of (heart disease) by 60,000 to 120,000, stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, and myocardial infarction (heart attack) by 54,000 to 99,000 and reduce the annual number of deaths from any cause by 44,000 to 92,000," it noted.