The cost to treat heart disease in the USA will triple by 2030, and urgent prevention strategies are needed to combat the problem.

That is the prediction of a report published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association titled Collision Course: America’s Baby Boomers and Cardiovascular Disease. The authors found that currently 36.9% of Americans have some form of heart disease, which will rise to 40.5%; the largest increases are anticipated in stroke (up 24.9%) and heart failure (+25%).

Between 2010-30, the cost of medical care for heart disease (in 2008 dollar values) will rise from $273 billion to $818 billion. It will also cost the USA billions more in lost productivity, increasing from an estimated $172 billion in 2010 to $276 billion in 2030.

Paul Heidenreich of Stanford University and chair of the AHA panel that issued the analysis, said that “despite the successes in reducing and treating heart disease over the last half century, even if we just maintain our current rates, we will have an enormous financial burden on top of the disease itself". He noted that the estimates "don’t assume that we will continue to make new discoveries to reduce heart disease,” and if "our ability to prevent and treat heart disease stays where we are right now, costs will triple in 20 years just through demographic changes".

Dr Heidenreich added the panel members were all surprised at "the remarkable increase in costs that are expected in the next two decades”. He concluded that "we need to continue to invest resources in the prevention of disease, the treatment of risk factors and early treatment of existing disease to reduce that burden.”

Nancy Brown, the AHA's chief executive, said "unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among many Americans". She added that "early intervention and evidence-based public policies are absolute musts to significantly reduce alarming rates of obesity, hypertension, tobacco use and cholesterol levels".