Heart disease risk factors rise in young adults

Study finds increased risk for hypertension, diabetes, and obesity

Photo of a Black young man and young woman making heart signs with their hands, backs facing the camera
Image: PeopleImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

One person dies every 34 seconds from cardiovascular disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups, and steady declines in cardiovascular mortality throughout the second half of the 20th century have stalled over the past decade.

Public health experts have expressed concern that these trends may reflect worsening cardiovascular health among younger adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

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However, no study to date has comprehensively evaluated changes in the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors among this group, nor have recent trends among younger adults been examined by race and ethnicity.

In a study published March 5 in JAMA and presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Session, Harvard Medical School researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center analyzed more than a decade’s worth of data to examine rates of cardiovascular risk factors — such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking — among U.S. adults from 2009 to March 2020.