After analyzing 10 years of data on heart disease deaths among Americans, researchers find the overall rate has shown an annual decline. However, within that figure, deaths from heart disease caused by high blood pressure and irregular heart beat have increased annually.

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Researchers found that overall death rates from heart disease in the US have fallen, while death rates from hypertensive heart disease and heart disease caused by arrhythmia have increased.

Dr. Matthew D. Ritchey and colleagues, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in Atlanta, GA, report their findings in JAMA.

They note that, while many studies have examined and published data on overall heart disease and coronary heart disease (CHD) rates, little is known about trends for the various subtypes.

For their analysis, they examined data from death certificates of US residents aged 35 and older who died during 2000-2010 and whose underlying cause of death was shown as either CHD, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease (HHD) – heart disease due to high blood pressure – valvular heart disease, arrhythmia, pulmonary heart disease or other heart disease.

The team got their data from WONDER – a CDC public health database that, among other things, holds death certificate information.

The researchers found that over the 10-year period, more than 7.1 million Americans died of heart disease. Over that time, the rates of death fell for heart disease overall by 3.8% per year, while death rates for CHD fell by 5.1% per year.

This downward trend was also reflected within most of the subtypes. However, there were two notable exceptions; death rates from HHD increased by 1.3% per year, while death rates from heart disease caused by arrhythmia increased by 1% per year.

In 2010, after CHD and other heart disease, the leading cause of death related to heart disease among those aged 35-54 (12.1%) and 55-74 (6.7%) was HHD. Among those aged 75 and over, it was heart failure (12.2%).

The authors note that although deaths due to HHD “increased among non-Hispanic whites and was unchanged among non-Hispanic blacks, it remained much higher among non-Hispanic blacks in 2010.”

They also point out that while deaths due to HHD and arrhythmia account for only a small proportion of overall heart disease deaths, their increases should be noted. They add:

Uncontrolled blood pressure and obesity among younger adults, especially non-Hispanic blacks, may be putting them at risk for developing HHD at an early age.”

They also say the increase in heart disease deaths due to arrhythmia was most prominent among non-Hispanic whites, women and all people aged 75 and over.

Among the reasons for these increases, the authors suggest an aging population, people living longer with heart failure, increases in chronic kidney disease and HHD prevalence. Another reason could be changes in how arrhythmia is diagnosed and reported on death certificates, they add.

The researchers conclude that, while the overall rate of death due to heart disease is falling, “considerable burden still exists.” They note that all efforts by policymakers and clinicians to apply evidence-based treatments to prevent and treat CHD and other types of heart disease, such as HHD and arrhythmia, should continue.

Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned how errors in a single gene may protect against heart disease. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers described how rare mutations that shut down a single gene are linked to lower cholesterol levels and a halving of the risk of heart attack.