Cardiovascular disease is taking a big toll in the U.S.
Approximately one in every six U.S. healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease. And heart disease killed more than 614,000 Americans in 2015.
In an interview with KSMU, American Heart Association President Dr. Steven Houser shared his concerns about the possible repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on those with cardiovascular disease. According to Houser, heart disease is still the leading cause of death, which means it’s the leading cause of pre-existing conditions.
"So, if the new healthcare program does not cover pre-existing conditions in the same way then my fear is that folks who acquire diseases like cardiovascular disease are not going to do as well as they do right now," he said.
Houser is concerned that, after decades of reduced death rates from cardiovascular disease, those numbers ticked upwards in the last year.
"Not sure why that is, and we're trying to figure out why--if we can look through the data to see why there's this uptick, but we're concerned, he said."
According to Houser, the Affordable Care Act can be fixed and changed, but it needs to be done right. Preventive care is important, he said, because "if we could do a better job with prevention, it wouldn't be a pre-existing condition, and the burden and cost would go down."
In Missouri, Houser said 24.7 percent of deaths are from cardiovascular disease. Just under 15,000 people died of heart disease last year in the state.
But Houser said it’s a disease that’s largely avoidable if people take steps toward a heart healthy lifestyle.
The American Heart Association offers "My Life Check-Life's Simple 7," which details steps to take to reduce one's risk for cardiovascular disease. Those include managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting active, eating better, losing weight and not smoking.
According to Houser, "we have to try to bake into our culture as Americans" healthy habits. "If we make it more of a cultural thing," he said, "maybe it could work."