Reuters) - Cardiovascular disease and stroke will cost the United States an estimated $503.2 billion in 2010, an increase of nearly 6 percent, and many cases could have been prevented, the American Heart Association said on Thursday.
The figure includes both health care costs and lost productivity due to death and disease, according to an update published online in the journal Circulation.
The heart association says obesity and other risk factors, like too little exercise and poor diet, are fueling the expected increase in health care costs associated with heart disease and stroke.
"Current statistical data show Americans to be on average overweight, physically inactive and eating a diet that is too high in calories, sodium, fat and sugar," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, head of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee.
Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist at Northwestern University in Chicago, said too many people do not take cholesterol-lowering medicines that could lower their risk.
"One reason it will cost us more to treat tomorrow's patients is because there will be more of them if current trends continue," Lloyd-Jones said in a statement.
According to the heart association, 59 percent of adults who responded to a 2008 national survey described themselves as physically inactive.
The report also says fewer than half of people with heart disease symptoms are receiving cholesterol-lowering drugs, like statins.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and in most industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes accounted for 32 percent of all deaths globally in 2005.
The heart association said the number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures jumped 33 percent from 1996 to 2006, from 5.4 million to 7.2 million.
By 2020, the American Heart Association hopes to reduce U.S. deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.
"To reach the 2020 goals, Americans must start making healthier lifestyle choices," Lloyd-Jones said.
(Editing by Maggie Fox)