Jun 01, 2023 | Posted in Clinical

Heart Disease & Facts You Should Know

Learning how to fight off a shark attack, escape from a burning building, or avoid a lightning strike may provide a great score at a trivia night, but heart disease prevention education is a more valuable investment. While the chance of being killed by a shark is one in 3.8 million, heart disease is the cause of one in every five deaths in the United States.[1],[2]

Though that statistic seems dire, the good news is that prevention and treatment are widely available and can cut down significantly on the fatalities and costs of heart disease.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers multiple conditions affecting the heart and cardiovascular system. These include:

  • Arrhythmia – An irregular beating pattern.
  • Cardiomyopathy – The heart muscle, or myocardium, is weakened or structurally damaged, and may not be able to effectively pump blood.
  • Congenital heart disease – Any malformations of the heart that occur during fetal development, such as pulmonary stenosis and septal abnormalities.
  • Coronary artery disease – The most common condition, CAD affects blood flow to the heart and can result in heart attacks.
  • Heart failure – The heart is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body.
  • Heart valve diseases – One or more of the four heart valves doesn’t open and close correctly, creating leaks or blockages. Includes endocarditis and rheumatic heart disease.
  • Pericardial disease – Problems with the sac that surrounds the heart.

These disease categories aren’t exclusive—some of them may open the door for others. For example:

  • Arrhythmias are often caused by other heart diseases
  • Congenital heart disease or coronary artery disease can lead to heart valve diseases
  • Pericardial disease may result from open heart surgery

Heart Disease Risk Factors

While there are some genetic factors in play, the majority of heart disease patients (and potential patients) can greatly reduce chances of a negative outcome through lifestyle changes.

According to the CDC, 47% of Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors:[3]

  • High blood pressure
  • High low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • Smoking (from both nicotine and carbon monoxide) or secondhand smoke exposure

Additional risk factors include:

  • A diet high in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt
  • Low or no physical activity
  • High alcohol use (more than one drink daily for women or two for men)
  • Family history of heart disease (may be a mix of genetics and shared lifestyle factors)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Age (risk increases with age)

Heart Disease Facts
As the leading cause of death in the country, there is a massive amount of study and research surrounding the risk factors, treatment, and prevention of heart disease. Among the useful and concerning data, consider:

#1 It’s an Equal Opportunity Disease
Heart disease is the top cause of death for both men and women, in spite of it often being shown to affect men more in movies and television. Although risk increases with age, it can affect any age including newborns.

Racially, it’s the #1 cause of death for most groups, and second only to cancer for Asians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders.[4]

#2 Heart Attacks Can Be Hidden

A heart attack is an incidence or outcome rather than a disease: a single occurrence of blockage in blood flow to the heart.

While it may be heralded by dramatic, well-known symptoms—extreme pain in the chest, difficulty breathing or speaking—symptoms vary based on severity and are different for most women.

In fact, about 20% of heart attacks are silent: though they cause damage, there are little to no symptoms and the person is left unaware they’ve had a heart attack.

#3 The Cost is Sky-High

Each year in the United States, the financial cost of cardiovascular disease totals about $200 billion.[5] This estimate tallies surgeries, medications, and medical visits, plus considers the financial burden of lost productivity to employers and individuals.

#4 Medications Abound

The American Heart Association lists a breakdown of 75 common drugs used for heart disease treatment, most of which have generic equivalents.[6] And there are more on the way—a report from PhRMA identifies 200 medicines at various stages of development for cardiovascular diseases.[7]

The wide array of existing medications and new medications in developmental stages makes it more important than ever to review and monitor patient cases to ensure that drug use is adjusted in tandem with lifestyle changes to avoid overprescribing medications with high costs and potential side effects.

BeneCard PBF Can Help Improve Health Outcomes and Treatment

Heart disease treatment adds significantly to the healthcare costs shouldered by plan sponsors. But the prevalence of heart disease has a silver lining: the amount of research and development has created many options to improve the lives of those diagnosed with it.

There are both pharmaceutical and behavioral adaptations that can treat, prevent, and positively impact health outcomes for patients with heart disease.

Contact us to learn how the BeneCard PBF Clinical team can partner with you to control costs and improve plan members’ health.


[1] Smithsonian Magazine. How to Survive the Shark Attack That Is Never Going to Happen To You. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-to-survive-the-shark-attack-that-is-never-going-to-happen-to-you-24121725/

[2] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

[3] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm

[4] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm

[5] The Heart Foundation. Heart Disease: Scope and Impact. https://theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts-2/

[6] American Heart Association. Types of Heart Medications. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/treatment-of-a-heart-attack/cardiac-medications#anticoagulants

[7] The PhRMA Foundation. Medicines in Development for Heart Disease and Stroke. https://www.phrma.org/-/media/Project/PhRMA/PhRMA-Org/PhRMA-Org/PDF/M-O/MIDReport_HeartStroke_2018_FINAL.pdf

Want to learn more?

Contact us to learn more about our innovative PBM solutions.