Heart Risks Increasing for Young Americans: Study

Increases of diabetes, hypertension and other heart risks disproportionately increased among people of color, researchers warn.

Young adults in America are facing increasing rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, all of which are risk factors and indicators of cardiovascular disease, according to the findings of a new study.

In a report published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School warn that new data highlights a significant increase in risk factors leading to heart problems among adults in recent years, with people of color facing disproportionate risks.

The findings were based on a cross-sectional study of nearly 13,000 adults ages 20 to 44 years old, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2009–2010 to 2017–2020.

From 2009 to 2020, young adults in the U.S. saw increased rates of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Each condition is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and heart problems.

“In the US, diabetes and obesity increased among young adults from 2009 to March 2020, while hypertension did not change and hyperlipidemia declined,” the researchers wrote. “There was variation in trends by race and ethnicity.”

Rates of diabetes increased from 3% to 4% over the 11-year study period. Rates of obesity rose from 33% to 41% during the same time frame. At the same time, hypertension rates increased from 9% to 12%.

Disproportionate Heart Risks Among People of Color

Overall, Black young adults had the highest rates of hypertension over the study period with rates that increased from 16% to 20%. Rates of hypertension among Black Americans were twice that of other racial and ethnic groups.

Mexican Americans also faced increases in hypertension rates, rising from 6.5% to 9.5% while other Latino groups experienced increases from 4% to 11%. Mexican Americans also experienced an increase in rates of diabetes, rising from 4% to 8%.

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While rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension increased for all Americans, people of color faced disproportionate increases in cardiometabolic risk factors linked to heart conditions and heart disease. The worsening of health conditions like these is linked to socioeconomic inequalities in the community and the healthcare system as well as implicit bias by healthcare workers.

The researchers say their findings highlight a need for improved public health access, doctor interventions, and focused risk factor monitoring and prevention to help improve health conditions and reduce the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.

A person dies from cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds in the U.S. It is the leading cause of death for many racial and ethnic groups who face the highest risks from stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular risks. While the treatments for those conditions have improved, the need for targeted intervention for some racial and ethnic groups is imperative to help reduce the risk of death and improve health for all Americans, the researchers determined.


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