The death rate for cardiovascular disease – which includes heart disease and strokes – has fallen just 4% since 2011 after dropping more than 70% over six decades, according to mortality statistics from the CDC. Particularly alarming is that the death rate is actually rising for middle-aged Americans. Heart disease was once on course to fall below cancer as the nation’s leading cause of death, a change public-health statisticians most recently predicted would occur by 2020. No longer, said Robert Anderson, chief of the CDC’s mortality statistics branch. “It’s highly unlikely given the current trend that there will be a crossover anytime soon,” he said.

The obesity epidemic and related rise in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes are key culprits in the new wave of cardiovascular disease mortality; studies link obesity and diabetes to high blood pressure and other conditions that increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Heart disease is still the nation’s top killer, and strokes, a primary component of cardiovascular disease, ranked fifth in the latest data.

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