Younger people and women are more often stricken: obesity and diabetes stall the decline

One of America’s greatest achievements over the past century has been a huge decline in death rates from heart disease and strokes. However, progress has stalled which is helping to drive down life expectancy. The death rate for CVD has fallen just 4% since 2011 after dropping more than 70% over six decades, according to the CDC. Particularly alarming is that the death rate is actually rising for middle-aged Americans.

The researchers state that the obesity epidemic and related rise in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes are key culprits in the new wave of cardiovascular disease mortality. Studies have linked obesity and diabetes to poor metabolic health, high blood pressure and other conditions that are damaging to the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Simultaneously abdominal fat produces proteins that drive inflammation, which research has shown to be linked to heart disease and stroke.

Though for decades a healthful diet has been the cornerstone for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and CVD, specific dietary patterns (e.g., the Mediterranean Diet) with accompanying nutrient recommendations has now repeatedly been linked to a low risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to the traditional risk factors (e.g. lipids, blood pressure), research now focuses on controlling the conditions which predispose people to cardiovascular events such as endothelial function, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress., and metabolic syndrome. The MedDiet lowers triglycerides, LDL’s, and cholesterol and increases HDL’s while showing a significantly favorable effects on endothelial function and oxidative stress, probably by increasing nitric-oxide bioavailability and decreasing pro- inflammatory and pro-oxidant molecules.

With respect to obesity, a comprehensive program provides education, meal planning and behavior modification with the goal of resolving food problems and adopting life-long habits conducive to weight management and health promotion rather than temporary measures for acute weight loss. A personalized approach is needed to develop an enjoyable and sustainable meal pattern.