You need to take better care of your heart. No, we’re not judging—it’s just a statistical reality. A new study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that rates of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. over the next four decades are on track to spike like your blood pressure after a triple cheeseburger.
The new projections are based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau combined with heart disease and risk factors data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among the general population in the U.S., cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are expected to increase dramatically between 2025 and 2060.
Roughly 55 million more Americans are projected to suffer from diabetes and 126 million more Americans are expected to be obsese by 2060. The researchers also predict that rates of stroke and heart failure will rise by more than 33 percent each—impacting a combined 28 million Americans.
What’s worse is that this rise is expected to disproportionately impact all minority groups—with Black and Hispanic populations bearing the biggest brunt of these increases in cardiovascular risks while rates decrease overall for white people. For example, the study found the number of Black adults suffering from diabetes will jump from 13 percent currently to 20 percent by 2060; and nearly 60 percent will have hypertension, a jump from 55 percent now.
This is especially damning considering the fact that advances in medicine should prevent such increases. But according to the study’s authors, the issue is systemic: Minority groups are frequently overlooked and neglected when it comes to health policy. Factors such as food deserts, lack of medical access, and income inequality in Black and Brown communities all contribute to a widening disparity in public health. This is further backed by past research that found that chronic lack of access to healthy food results in higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular illness. The researchers say that the findings outline clear disparities in the U.S. healthcare system and are a call to action to fix them.
“Our analysis projects that the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and diseases will continue to rise with worrisome trends,” James L. Januzzi Jr. a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the study, said in a press release. “These striking projections will disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority populations in the U.S. Understanding these results will hopefully inform future public health policy efforts and allow us to implement prevention and treatment measures in an equitable manner.”
Remediating this disparity will require more equitable health education and treatment for at-risk populations. Januzzi Jr. and his colleagues argue that health policies and regulations will need to be leveraged to focus particularly on the impact cardiovascular disease has on minority communities.
So, while dire, it’s important to remember that the study is a look at what might happen if we don’t take action. If our history with addressing climate change and environmental issues is any indication, though, we sadly won’t hold our breath.