Deaths from heart failure, one of the nation’s leading killers, is on the rise. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that in the United States, heart failure has surged by 38% from 2011 to 2017.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 5.7 million Americans suffer from heart failure. That’s about double the population of Chicago. Experts expect the growth in Americans with heart disease to continue.
Experts say that obesity and diabetes are partially to blame for the increase—as well as a rapidly aging population who are more vulnerable to heart failure.
“We’ve been aware of this problem for a long time, but I don’t think we’ve seen improvements in the way we’re hoping to,” said Shaline Rao, MD, Heart Failure Cardiologist at NYU Langone. A healthy, balanced diet, including monitoring one’s intake of sodium, can help prevent heart failure.
“It’s unlikely that someone ate three bags of potato chips and got a big salt load and gave themselves immediate heart failure,” Dr. Rao said, “But it’s really over time, it causes weight gain, it causes high blood pressure, it can affect how the heart and kidney interact and then leads down the path to heart failure or worsening of heart symptoms.”
She encourages everyone to look at the contents list on product packing when doing their grocery shopping.
The FDA suggests less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for an average adult. That’s roughly 1 teaspoon of salt. However, on average, Americans eat about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.
Apart from potato chips, Dr. Rao said cured meats, cheeses, canned food, and soup all tend to have unexpectantly high amounts of salt. For people who eat out a lot, “I often tell my patients to speak up and say that they’re looking for lower salt, or a dish with vegetables.”
Regular exercise can also help prevent heart disease.
“Trying to get about 30 minutes about three, four times a week, of aerobic exercise is very helpful for just maintaining your glucose metabolism, keeping your muscles healthy, giving your heart that extra conditioning,” she said.
Most people with unhealthy diets, who do little-to-no exercise, have poor health because of a busy lifestyle. Dr. Rao says apart from more community programs to educate people, it’s up to the individual to make a conscious effort to improve their health.