Decline in Fatal Heart Disease Threatened by Lifestyle Factors, says Rutgers University Study

In a recent study conducted by Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey, it has been revealed that the significant decline in fatal heart disease in the United States between 1990 and 2019 is at risk of being undermined by prevalent unhealthy lifestyle factors.

The research, led by Cande Ananth, Chief of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, highlights the need for Americans to address smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity to sustain the progress made in reducing heart disease-related mortality.

The study’s findings demonstrate that fatal heart disease rates witnessed a commendable 4% annual reduction over nearly three decades, contributing to an overall decline in coronary heart disease deaths for both males and females. However, this trend has slowed considerably in recent years, particularly between 2011 and 2019. Alarmingly, individuals born after 1980 were identified to be at a slightly higher risk of succumbing to coronary heart disease than their preceding generation.

Researchers underscore the importance of lifestyle adjustments alongside medical advancements in mitigating heart disease fatalities. While innovations in treatment options hold promise, the study emphasizes that half of the observed deaths during the research period could have been prevented through the elimination of smoking, alcohol abuse, and obesity. Positive strides have been made in reducing tobacco usage, with the percentage of smokers dwindling from 26% to 14% during the study period.

Nonetheless, the study raises concerns regarding the surging obesity rates, which climbed from 12% in 1990 to an alarming 43% in 2019. The report also noted a marginal increase in alcohol consumption during the research timeframe.

The reduction in heart disease deaths was attributed to factors including lowered tobacco usage, the introduction of cholesterol-lowering statins, and enhanced diagnostic procedures. Notably, chronic ischemic heart disease and atherosclerotic heart disease – two significant types of coronary heart disease – can now be diagnosed and treated proactively, potentially preventing future heart muscle damage.

The study utilized data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, examining heart disease fatalities among individuals aged 25 to 84 over the course of three decades. Cande Ananth highlighted the study’s aim to inform healthcare standards and public health priorities by identifying high-risk subsets of patients for targeted interventions.

As the nation works to sustain progress against heart disease, the research underlines the urgent need for individual and collective efforts to adopt healthier lifestyles and thus preserve the substantial gains achieved in reducing fatal heart disease.


Cande V. Ananth, Caroline Rutherford, Emily B. Rosenfeld, Justin S. Brandt, Hillary Graham, William J. Kostis, Katherine M. Keyes, Epidemiologic trends and risk factors associated with the decline in mortality from coronary heart disease in the United States, 1990-2019, American Heart Journal