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New study shows heart failure deaths rising, especially in younger adults

Posted at 7:46 AM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 08:46:24-04

A new study shows an alarming trend when it comes to deaths caused by heart failure - especially in adults under 65-years old.

"Death rates due to heart failure are now increasing, and this increase is most prominent among younger adults," said a new Northwestern Medicine study.

The study showed death rates due to heart failure increased for the first time since 2012, despite advancements in medical and surgical treatment for heart failure over the past decade.

Dr. Sadiya Kahn, the senior author of the study, told Northwestern Medicine's News center the increase is "likely due to obesity and the diabetes epidemic."

An estimated 6-million adults in the U.S. are living with heart failure.

According to doctors, warning signs include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling of the feet.

Heart failure happens when the heart muscle doesn't work properly in its functions like squeezing and relaxing.

Angela Kennedy-Lovett, of Milwaukee, said her son Danny was one of many Americans who brushed off symptoms because he never thought heart failure could happen to someone his age.

He was 35-years old when he passed away in his sleep.

"We didn't even know he was sick," Kennedy-Lovett said.

"Now, I always think about if there had been more signs. What did I miss? You kind of blame yourself for not knowing," she said.

Kennedy-Lovett now hopes to educate young adults - especially African-Americans - about the signs and symptoms of a failing heart.

The increase in early death due to heart failure was highest among black men, according to the Northwestern study.

"Being able to tell somebody, so this doesn't happen to someone else, is healing for me," she said.

Dr. Nasir Sulemanjee, an Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Cardiologist at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, said he thinks young Americans living with heart failure may be an even bigger problem than the study shows.

"It's a national health emergency. I feel that we need to address this issue," Sulemanjee said.

He, like Kahn, said he thinks diabetes and obesity is playing a role in heart failure becoming a bigger problem across the country.

"More and more of our population is becoming unhealthy," Sulemanjee said.

"Risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cigarette smoking, use of substances like alcohol, all of those are injurious to your health and can cause heart disease," Sulemanji said. "Once you develop heart disease, that can progress to heart failure."

As for the increased risk among the black community, Sulemanji said, "African Americans in general are more susceptible to high blood pressure."

"I also feel socioeconomic disparities exist which lead to reduced access to healthcare among the African American population," the Doctor added. "No healthcare access, and no preventative care, leads to problems down the road."

According to Northwestern, the study utilized data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's database, which details the underlying and contributing causes of death on American death certificates between 1999 and 2017.

The data covers 47,728,569 people. Researchers then analyzed he age-adjusted mortality rate for both black and white adults, ages 35 to 84, who died from heart failure.