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Sep 17, 2015

Age and Gender Differences in Heart Disease Mortality Rates

Despite recent drops in cardiovascular mortality rates, death toll among young adults remains high.

Overall mortality rates from heart disease have significantly decreased in recent decades in the United States. Thanks to advances in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, research suggests that heart disease mortality rates from fallen as much as 52% in men and 49% in women between 1980 and 2002. However, mortality rates haven’t dropped equally among adults, as highlighted by recent findings published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

According to the data, heart disease mortality rates in the U.S. decreased by 68% from 1979–2011. But when researchers analyzed data by age and gender, mortality rates differed significantly.

In the past thirty years, adults 65 and over saw the biggest decline in cardiovascular mortality rates. Heart disease mortality rates have consistently fallen by up to 5% each year in this population, with the steepest decline in the 2000s. Heart disease mortality rates also fell among adults under 55 in the ‘80s, but there was little to no improvement between 1990 and 2011. Young women consistently experienced smaller drops in cardiovascular mortality rates than young men.

Authors have a number of theories to explain age and gender differences in mortality trends. First, studies tend to include older adults rather than younger adults, especially when it comes to heart disease. Women have also been underrepresented in heart disease research, as it was first believed to be a “man’s disease.”

Authors also suggest that awareness about heart disease may be lacking among young adults, so many are not getting the preventative care they need to reduce their risk. Researchers note that psychological factors like depression are more common in younger adults, especially women, and these factors can be overlooked and increase risk for heart disease.

The good news is that cardiovascular mortality in the U.S. has dramatically fallen since 1979. This suggests that treatment and prevention efforts are helping to fight heart disease. However, it’s clear that additional effort is needed to reduce cardiovascular mortality rates among younger adults, especially women. Through education, prevention and treatment, experts hope to minimize the impact that heart disease has on young adults and help reduce cardiovascular mortality rates in this population.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Am I at risk for heart disease?
  • To estimate a patient’s risk for heart disease, doctors take into account a number of factors such as age, gender, blood pressure, cholesterol, and family history. Using this information, doctors can estimate whether a patient is considered to be at low, medium or high risk for heart disease. Online tools are also available to help patients estimate their risk for heart disease.
  • What are health disparities?
  • Health disparities refer to differences in health outcomes or burdens of disease between groups of people. Health disparities can exist between different populations of race, sex, income, or even geographic location. In health care, the goal is to eliminate these differences so all individuals have the same ability to achieve good health.

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