About the SA Blog Network



Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

Heart disease treatment costs set to triple to $818 billion annually by 2030

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

blood pressure screeningMore than one in three people in the U.S. currently have some form of heart disease, and it remains the leading cause of death in the country. Treating all of our coronary heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke and other conditions last year cost about $272.5 billion. In 20 years, that price tag is likely to triple to $818.1 billion a year—even if costly new treatments don’t arise—according to an analysis published online January 24 in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

This "remarkable increase in costs" is expected "just through demographic changes in the population," Paul Heidenreich, who chaired the expert panel responsible for the report, said in a prepared statement.

With an aging population, by 2030 some 116 million people in the U.S. (about 40 percent of the population) are expected to have at least one form of heart disease. "Despite the success in reducing and treating heart disease over the last half century, even if we just maintain our current rates, we will have an enormous financial burden," Heidenreich said. Since 2000, heart disease alone has led to about 15 percent of the increase in total U.S. medical spending, which now tops $2.5 trillion annually. And, according to the new analysis, the cost just of treating hypertension is expected to grow $258.3 billion between 2010 and 2030.

The key to slowing the trend, reported the experts, is improving prevention—both on the individual and policy levels. "Unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among many Americans," Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a prepared statement. "Early intervention and evidenced-based public policies are absolute musts." The report also points out a need to prepare more healthcare workers—including primary care doctors, specialists, nurses and pharmacists—for the expected demand.

Beyond the medical expenses themselves, the experts advised, heart disease resulted in about $172 billion in lost productivity due to missed work, premature death and other factors. That figure is expected to rise to $276 billion by 2030, tipping the scale of heart disease’s annual cost in the U.S. beyond $1 trillion.

Heart disease is not the only common chronic disease that is likely to bring a steep price increase in the coming decades (it currently is responsible for some 17 percent of national health care costs). A study published earlier this month reported that the cost of cancer care is likely to climb some 40 to 66 percent in the next 10 years (bringing an annual total of $173 billion or $207 billion, respectively).

Image courtesy of CDC/James Gathany

Rights & Permissions

Comments 6 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Neil5150 3:15 pm 01/24/2011

    Assuming we have zero medical advancement in treating heart disease.

    Link to this
  2. 2. lamorpa 4:07 pm 01/24/2011

    When was the last time you saw an ‘advancement’ in medical treatment make it cost less. I’m not just trying to be negative, I’m serious. It’s just not set up that way.

    Link to this
  3. 3. jtdwyer 5:35 pm 01/24/2011

    What is the most common cause of death for the most elderly of people? I think is may be heart failure – simply because of tissue age. I think those deaths should be excluded from any statistical analysis of deaths due to unhealthy heart conditions – they surely skew the data, lead to misinterpretations and contribute to invalid conclusions.

    Link to this
  4. 4. jbairddo 7:16 am 01/25/2011

    As long as the medical profession sees coronary artery disease CAD (the most common form of heart disease) as a plumbing problem and not a metabolic problem, this forecast will come to pass. The government continues to push its low fat agenda which has caused huge increases in diabetes and other insulin related diseases such as CAD. Cholesterol lowering drugs have little impact on deaths from heart disease and cost between $20,000 and $45,000 per year of life saved (and that is for high risk groups, not low risk groups with isolated elevated cholesterol with no risk factors which pushes this figure higher still). Doctors who do angiograms back in 2006 (last year for which BXBS sent me reimbursement rates) get $900 for an angiogram but $5000 if they put in a stent, if there is any doubt do you suppose someone will get a stent? (and the latest studies suggest these are of little benefit or worse deadly- Until the science of treatment is guided by apolitical and non-financial motives, this will continue to be the case.

    Link to this
  5. 5. sunnystrobe 2:06 am 01/26/2011

    According to a German health statistic, our risk of dying from a heart attack is 50% if you are a meat eater, but only 15% if you are a vegetarian, and a whoppingly low 6% if you are a vegan.
    Guess what lifestyle I entrust my own life now?
    After almost 5 decades of eating the wrong food, I have evolved- without ever planning it-more or less into a raw vegan- and never felt better in my whole life.
    Welcome to

    Link to this
  6. 6. michaeltdeans 8:03 am 01/26/2011

    According to my research, (go to, the transfer of water across cell membranes is controlled by the trace elements manganese and selenium. Due to the use of sulphurous fertilizers, losses in food preparation and cropping poor soils, the Western population is often selenium deficient. Standard methods for assessing selenium status are inappropriate. Supplements are cheaper than changing diet. Cancers of breast, bowel and prostate would also be prevented. My model needs proper research, which I cannot carry out.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article