Decline in heart disease slows after decades of progress: 5 things to know

The cardiovascular disease death rate has fallen by just 4 percent since 2011 after a decrease of over 70 percent in the last six decades, and the death rate rose 1.5 percent for middle-aged Americans, according to CDC statistics cited in The Wall Street Journal.

Five things to know:

1. Experts in cardiovascular disease primarily blame increasing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes for slowing the disease's decline. Studies have shown both conditions to be linked to issues such as high blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

2. Public-health statisticians once predicted heart disease would fall below cancer as the nation's leading cause of death by 2020, a prediction now considered unlikely.

3. The recent decline in falling death rates counteracts decades of progress against the disease, which were largely thanks to anti-smoking campaigns, medications such as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and surgical advances.

4. The typical profile of heart disease patients is also changing. "Classic" patients used to be male smokers with high LDL cholesterol numbers, but today's patients are more likely to be younger, female and obese and less likely to smoke.

5. Experts in cardiovascular health say they need to approach the disease differently in response to patients' changing profiles. They must educate young people on the dangers of obesity and diabetes, and they need better data to analyze the trends in mortality rates.

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