The total annual cost of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke in the U.S. is estimated to be more than $312 billion, according to the 2013 Statistical Update published in American Heart Association’s Circulation journal. This number is of great concern to physicians, researchers and hospital administrators across the country, because as more Americans are newly diagnosed with CVD, the long-term financial forecast for treatment is expected to worsen.
In recognition of February as American Heart Month, Michael R. Jaff, DO, chair of the MGH Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care, addresses rising costs in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for Americans.
Q. What are common types of cardiovascular diseases?
A. Heart attacks, strokes, peripheral artery disease, and aortic aneurysm/dissection are all examples of cardiovascular diseases. The major root cause of CVD is atherosclerosis, which is thickening and hardening of the arteries, caused by a buildup of plaque in the inner lining of an artery. This buildup – comprised of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and fibrin – can decrease blood flow and lower the amount of oxygen supplied to vital body organs and extremities.
MGH hosts heart health events
Heart disease – the No. 1 killer of American women – and stroke account for 28.6 percent of all female deaths in Massachusetts, which makes prevention, early detection and prompt treatment key. In collaboration with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, the MGH will host a series of heart health events this month.
Q. What are the types of costs associated with CVD?
A. Treating CVD is expensive and involves both direct and indirect costs. The medical community tends to be heavily focused on direct costs related to evaluations, medications and procedures used to treat patients with CVD. However, it is important not to underestimate indirect costs that some patients experience, including financial hardship if they have to take an extended leave from work. Beyond lost wages, dealing with health conditions such as heart attacks or strokes results in major emotional tolls on families, especially in cases when the affected loved one has a difficult recovery or passes away. Sadly, about one in every four deaths in the U.S. each year is due to heart disease.
Q. How expensive is treating CVD going to get?
A. The annual cost to treat heart disease in the U.S. is expected to triple by 2030, meaning costs will exceed $800 billion. It is projected that more than 40 percent of the U.S. population will have some form of cardiovascular disease. Nationally, one major concern physicians have is the rise of children who have sedentary lifestyles. More children are developing conditions like obesity and diabetes which put them at a much greater risk for having cardiovascular disease.
Q. What are some of the best ways for the medical community to address rising costs?
A. Prevention, prevention, prevention. That is the key. We need to continue to educate people and provide them with tools and resources to prevent them from needing expensive procedures to treat complex artery blockages. Although costs are increasing, I remain optimistic about the future, given that aggressively attempting to prevent CVD is the right thing to do for patients. Widespread attempts at diet modification, exercise, statin use and antiplatelet use must be made.
Q. How is the MGH tackling the cost issue?
A. In an effort to become more efficient and effective in preventing CVD, the MGH recently established the Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care, the first truly integrated cardiovascular and cerebrovascular institute in the region. We are merging specialists who manage all aspects of CVD into teams within our care programs. We have teams specifically designed to prevent CVD, such as the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center, and other groups dealing with heart disease, vascular disease and stroke.
Read more articles from the 02/01/13 Hotline issue.