Nearly half of U.S. adults deal with some form of cardiovascular disease, said a new study, driven largely by changes in guidelines for classifying high blood pressure.
According to the study from the American Heart Association, 121.5 million Americans, or about 48.5 percent, dealt with heart or blood vessel disease as of 2016.
The study says deaths from cardiovascular disease rose from more than 836,000 in 2015 to more than 840,000 in 2016.
Findings were published in the peer-reviewed AHA journal Circulation.
The rise in Americans with heart disease is much higher than the 92.1 million reported in 2014. A key reason is changes to guidelines on measuring high blood pressure. In 2017, the AHA and American College of Cardiology updated its guidelines to define high blood pressure as a reading higher than 130/80, down from the original 140/90.
When cases of high blood pressure are removed, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease among Americans is 9 percent, or 24.3 million Americans.
“As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, this overwhelming presence of high blood pressure can’t be dismissed from the equation in our fight against cardiovascular disease,” Ivor Benjamin, volunteer president of the American Heart Association and director of the Cardiovascular Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
The study found significant declines in smoking, a major risk factor for developing heart disease. From 2015 to 2016, 79 percent of adults were nonsmokers, up from 73 percent in 1999-2000.