Cardiovascular disease risks rise during pandemic

February 19, 2021

By: Robert Brook, M.D., Wayne Health Department of Internal Medicine

While the world has been focusing on COVID-19, another, more familiar killer has been increasingly taking the lives of Americans.

Heart attacks and deaths from high blood pressure have increased by 11% and 17% respectively during the pandemic, in part because health care visits for high blood pressure and high cholesterol fell by more than a third. Delays in routine health check-ups are putting more lives at risk from the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. – cardiovascular disease.

The statistics are alarming:

  • About 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop heart disease in their lifetime.
  • About half of all Americans have one or more leading risk factor(s) for heart disease.
  • Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure and only 20% have it controlled.
  • Many heart health disparities have worsened even further.
    • African Americans ages 18-49 are twice as likely to die of heart disease than whites.
    • African Americans 35-64 are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure.

But the good news is that there are many things people can do to take charge and prevent heart disease. The American Heart Association refers to them as “Life’s Simple 7.” (link to AHA website)

  • Stop smoking – it is never “too late”. One year after quitting, heart disease risk is reduced by 50%.
  • Eat healthier – read food labels to help make a variety of healthier food choices
  • Get active – walking as little as 10-30 minutes a day can improve your heart health
  • Lose weight – know your Body Mass Index (BMI) to identify and reach your healthy weight
  • Manage blood pressure – monitor and control your blood pressure with lifestyle and medications, if needed
  • Control cholesterol – know your HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Lowering LDL with medications can reduce heart disease and stroke risks by 30-50%
  • Reduce blood sugar – track and control your blood glucose levels with lifestyle and medications, if needed

Taking these simple steps can cut your lifetime risk of heart disease by nearly 90%.

A Wayne Health primary care physician can help you monitor and optimize your cardiovascular health. To find one near you, call 877-929-6342 or visit

Join Wayne Health in supporting the American Heart Association through the 2021 Metro Detroit Heart and Stroke Walk/Run. Donate here.

Cardiovascular disease risks rise during pandemic
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