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VA HSR&D Investigator Chairs American Heart Association Project That Reports Potential for Alarming Increase in Cardiovascular Disease and Costs

January 28, 2011

To prepare for future cardiovascular needs, the American Heart Association (AHA) developed a methodology to project future costs of care for hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and all other CVD from 2010 to 2030. According to this AHA study, chaired by HSR&D investigator, Paul Heidenreich, M.D., M.S., F.A.H.A., it is projected that 116 million "baby boomers" will have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) over the next two decades. Published in the journal Circulation and reported in The Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets, the resulting AHA policy statement warns that in spite of enormous advances in prevention and treatment, 39% of men and 42% of women will have some form of CVD by 2030, creating an "enormous financial burden." Total direct medical costs (in 2008 dollars) for CVD are expected to triple–from $273 billion to $818 billion, while indirect costs (e.g., due to lost productivity) are estimated to increase from $172 billion in 2010 to $276 billion in 2030, an increase of 61%.

The aging of the "baby boomer" generation coupled with an explosive growth in medical spending are the primary drivers of increased costs. However, if some risk factors, such as diabetes and obesity continue to increase rapidly, there may be an even greater increase in the prevalence of CVD and its associated costs. The article recommends that CVD prevention begin early in life, and that modest improvements in risk factors earlier in life have a far greater impact than more substantial improvements later in life. Also, according to Dr. Heidenreich, cost estimates for 2030 "don't assume that we will continue to make new discoveries to reduce heart disease," which could also have a significant effect.

Heidenreich P, Trogdon J, Khavjou O, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: A policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation January 24, 2011.

Dr. Heidenreich is part of HSR&D's Center for Health Care Evaluation in Palo Alto, CA.