Dr. Sadiya Khan, lead researcher and assistant professor at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said that the success of the last three decades with lowering the mortality rates of heart failure is being reversed and the likely culprits are both the obesity and the diabetes epidemics. Khan even said that she believes, given the aging population and the lack of action against the two epidemics, this trend is likely to continue and get worse, especially since recent data now shows the average American life expectancy is decreasing.
Heart failure is when the muscles in the heart no longer function properly. This means it's unable to either contract, relax or both. This can cause symptoms like shortness of breath and swelling to develop. Heart failure is further categorized into two kinds. When the heart can't properly squeeze to pump blood, it's known as heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. When the heart is unable to relax, it's called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.
Khan's research used data gathered from the CDC's Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research. The data includes the underlying and contributing cause of death from virtually all death certificates in the US between 1999 and 2017. All in all, Khan and her team reviewed the death certificates of over 47 million individuals. The researchers then analyzed the age-adjusted mortality rate for black and white adults between the ages of 35 to 84 who died from heart failure.
Khan said that they focused on heart failure because it has "the highest mortality related to cardiovascular death. They have a prognosis similar to metastatic lung cancer."
An estimated six million American adults are now living with heart failure. This is the number one reason why adults in the US are admitted to the hospital. Khan believes that in order to combat this trend, a lot of focus needs to be put into controlling its risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. (Related: Low intake of fresh fruits and vegetables linked to cardiovascular death: Following a balanced diet boosts heart health.)
Furthermore, Khan believes that lifestyle changes that promote natural health and a normal body mass index can also lower the risk of developing heart failure. Along with this, Khan said that people should engage in more regular physical activity and eat a natural and well-balanced diet.
Other studies support Khan's recommendations, such as one published in the journal Circulation, which said that focusing on three public health interventions can be more than enough to improve the heart health of nearly 100 million people within 25 years of its worldwide implementation. These three interventions are: lowering blood pressure levels, reducing sodium intake and avoiding the consumption of trans fats.
Khan understands that the problem with heart failure can be solved by individuals themselves at the home through natural health practices. If you start limiting your sodium intake, avoiding eating foods high in trans fats, switching to a more heart-healthy diet and exercising more often, then you're already on your way to improving your overall heart health.