Living longer is important, but those years need to be healthy ones

Photo of Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA, President-elect, American Heart Association

American Heart Association sets bold new goals to address growing trend of people living longer but in poor health

Data reported in the just published American Heart Association’s Heart & Stroke Statistics – 2020 Update, show heart disease and stroke deaths continue to decline, but that trend has slowed significantly in recent years. Further discouraging is that more people are living in poor health, beginning at a younger age, as a direct result of risk factors that contribute to these leading causes of death worldwide.

To build on its mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, has published a presidential advisory in the journal, Circulation, outlining new national and global 2030 Impact Goals to help all people live healthier for more years of their life.

  • Across the US: Together, we will equitably increase healthy life expectancy from 66 to at least 68 years by 2030.
  • Around the world: Together with global and local collaborators, we will equitably increase worldwide healthy life expectancy from 64 to at least 67 years by 2030.

“We know people are living longer thanks in part to nearly a century of dedicated efforts from volunteers, staff and many invaluable supporters joining the American Heart Association in our fight again heart disease and stroke, leading to improvements in disease control and prevention, advancements in medical treatments and improved lifestyle behaviors,” said American Heart Association president Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA. “Unfortunately, not all those years are healthy ones as the effects of chronic illnesses are increasingly impacting the quality of life of people at a much younger age than in the past.”

Goal progress will be tracked by the Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) metric, commonly referred to as Healthy Life Expectancy, which anticipates the number of years a person can expect to live in good health. It’s a comprehensive single metric that provides an estimate of overall health across a person’s lifetime and captures both physical and mental health conditions. That is especially relevant to the broader focus on overall health and well-being emphasized in the new goals.

Over the past decade, key factors that support ideal cardiovascular health have seen some positive movement across the U.S. Reports show adults are getting more active and, overall, people are eating healthier, smoking cigarettes less and better controlling their cholesterol. But that good news is offset by major setbacks in other critical areas, especially among youth, a trend that puts upcoming generations at even higher risk for facing major health issues at younger ages.

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