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Rx for cutting heart disease costs: Better nutrition

The cost of heart disease in America is staggering. What can we do about it?

February 24, 2022

Rx for cutting heart disease costs: Better nutrition

More than 659,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. But the true toll of heart disease in America is impossible quantify when you think of all the lost loved ones and the untapped potential those lives represent.

However, there are ways to measure the actual cost of heart disease in America and, no matter how you look at it, the numbers are staggering:

  • Heart disease costs the United States almost $363 billion annually
  • Of that total, $216 billion is the cost to the health care system
  • The balance of that total — $147 billion — is due to lost productivity due to death of workers in America
  • 1 in every 6 health care dollars spent in the U.S. is spent on cardiovascular disease
  • Heart disease patients generally have more than $2,000 of out of pocket health care costs every year, with half of that going towards medication
  • The average hospital charge for a heart operation is almost $85,000

Prevention saves lives — and money

What’s most alarming about those numbers is that there is so much that can be done to lower the toll on lives and the costs to our health care system. Smart lifestyle choices including not smoking, getting enough exercise, and eating a nutritious diet improve heart health for patients with heart disease and are protective against the development of heart disease. In fact, research shows that if people would address their risk factors for heart disease, almost 70% of all heart disease could be prevented.

Prevention would not only reduce the prevalence of heart disease and save lives, but it would also save the nation and individuals huge amounts of money in health care expenditures. A study of Medicare beneficiaries, shows that if they followed just some of the recommended healthy habits that reduce heart disease, it would save more than $41 billion in Medicare costs.

Food as medicine

One of the most important preventative measures anyone can take is to eat a heart healthy diet. Heart smart nutrition emphasizes consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free dairy, and focuses on reducing the consumption of fat, salt, and sugar. It’s no wonder a heart-smart diet is often considered “food as medicine” because it can help control weight, lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, and manage blood pressure.

That’s why making a heart smart diet more accessible to more people, especially to patients with chronic illness like heart disease, is a focus for many insurers as well as state and national governments.

Mom’s Meals® pilot program

We are at the forefront of those efforts delivering medically tailored meals to people around the nation. We are also actively researching the impact of those meals in terms of clinical outcomes and reduced health care costs. In one study underway in California, Mom’s Meals is participating in a pilot program to provide healthy food, nutrition education, and home visits to patients with heart failure with the goal of improving outcomes. Learn more about this program.