If this is the Decade of Health Ageing, as the World Health Organization declares, then heart failure may well be the next public health crisis.
Cardiovascular Risk & the Ageing Population
Heart disease, the leading cause of mortality, represents a ticking time bomb – particularly in an ageing world. And the World Health Organization’s forecast of demographic trends suggests the world is indeed getting older. Due to increased life expectancy and a decline in fertility rates, older adults will outnumber younger people in this decade.
That’s not necessarily bad news. Preventive health measures and advanced medicine are yielding better health outcomes, longer life expectancies and an increased quality of life in older years. But the demographic shift does necessitate a shift in focus for public health.
In this decade of health ageing, it will be important to prioritize heart failure prevention.
Heart Failure Impact & Prevention
Advancing through middle age can itself be a risk factor. For people with heart disease, for example, the risk posed by ageing can combine with other risk factors and comorbid conditions such as tobacco use, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle. When left unmanaged, these overlapping risk factors can pose a greater danger – heart failure.
Heart failure is the world’s leading cause of hospitalization. Beyond the burden it places on the health care system, heart failure also impacts communities by reducing peoples’ productivity and quality of life. Preventing heart failure begins by adequately managing risk factors through:
- Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing stress levels
- Taking prescribed medications
By the year 2030, 1.4 billion people around the world will be aged 60 years and older.
As policymakers focus this decade on critical decisions for the ageing population, they have an opportunity to reduce the widespread cardiovascular threats that lead to heart disease and, when left unmanaged, cause heart failure. That begins by crafting policies that emphasize prevention and encourage access to treatment.