Heart disease remains No.1 cause of death worldwide, AHA says

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic likely to extend that ranking for years to come, according to the American Heart Association's Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2021 Update published Jan. 27. 

The data, published in the AHA's Circulation journal, reports more than 523.2 million cases of heart disease in 2019 worldwide, with nearly 18.6 million deaths. Each of those numbers rose significantly since 2010, according to the update. 

Experts anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on heart health, both directly and indirectly. 

"Research is showing that the unique coronavirus can cause damage to the heart," said Salim Virani, MD, PhD, chair of the report's writing committee and associate professor at Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine. "Importantly, we also know people have delayed getting care for heart attacks and strokes, which can result in poorer outcomes." 

The pandemic has also exacerbated poor lifestyle behaviors that can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, Dr. Virani added. 

This year's report also included a new chapter focused on adverse pregnancy outcomes, which increase the risk of heart disease in mothers and their children. Data showed that cardiovascular deaths are the most common cause of maternal death in the U.S. 

To view the full report, click here.

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