Looking Forward to 2030 with the American Heart Association

The AHA's 2030 Impact Goals seek to improve whole person health

Every ten years the American Heart Association sets some health-related goals for the coming decade. While they are simple, they are not easy. You can readily understand their meaning, but we as a citizen group will be challenged to achieve them. And achieving them will take all of us.

First and foremost, the AHA wants to add two years of healthy life to the number of years a newborn baby is expected to live in the United States – equitably, across the board, including every subgroup. Currently for the entire country that life expectancy number averages 66. Based on the most recently available data (2017), quite a few states already surpass that goal: Hawaii, Minnesota, and California are the best at, respectively, 69.7, 69.4, and 68.8. At the other end of the spectrum are some startlingly low numbers: West Virginia 62.4, Kentucky 62.7, and Alabama 63.4.

Undoubtedly in the states with lower life expectancy, and certainly to some extent even in the states with higher life expectancy, there are people who die early, pulling those numbers down. You can see each state’s numbers here.

So, how exactly do we increase years of healthy living in the U.S.? What does the AHA suggest we do to add to our own and everyone else’s years of healthy life?

First, we continue to make progress improving lifestyle behaviors that help us to avoid chronic illnesses that will shorten our years of healthy living: we don’t smoke, we avoid or control drinking alcohol, we exercise regularly, and we watch what we eat so that we don’t become obese or develop diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

The AHA recognizes that we need national action on many of these goals. We need to improve primary and secondary disease prevention and continue working toward effective, intelligent, and affordable health care systems.

As individuals, though, the AHA suggests we focus on three of their objectives:

  • We put a stop to vaping now before it becomes the widespread scourge cigarette smoking was 50 years ago. For this objective, you can join the #QuitLying campaign.
  • We improve health in rural communities by ensuring more people have access to health care. This comes under the You’re the Cure heading. 
  • We aim to improve women’s health in part by encouraging them to become research participants, so that scientific understanding of women’s health can advance. This collaboration between the AHA’s Go Red for Women and Verily’s Project Baseline is known as Research Goes Red.

The AHA has also set global goals for 2030, including increasing worldwide healthy life expectancy from 64 to 67. In the Western Hemisphere, several countries currently exceed the target age (Canada 70.5, Colombia 70.4, Peru 70.3, and Cuba 69.1) while others have much farther to go (Guyana 60 and Suriname 63.2).  The lowest life expectancy in the world is 44.8 in Central African Republic, followed by Lesotho at 46.9.

There have been some positive global health activity and outcomes in recent years. HIV rates have declined 37% since 2000. Although more than 1.3 billion people still use tobacco, the smoking rate in men has declined for the first time in history. And members of the World Health Organization have banded together to address behaviors that lead to obesity and diabetes. 

On the other hand, there are troubling signs as well. Obesity rates have almost tripled since 1975 and Type 2 diabetes among adults has almost doubled since 1980. Disappointing numbers of adults (23%) and school-aged adolescents (81%) are not physically active. And only 20% of people with hypertension have their disease under control worldwide.

The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease around the world is expected to increase from 17.8 million people in 2017 to more than 22.2 million by 2030.

We have a lot of work to do.