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Heart Disease: What Are the Medical Costs?

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WebMD Feature

Heart disease can affect more than your health. It can have an impact on your finances, too.

Here's a rundown of the costs of heart disease -- and some advice about how you can protect your wallet.

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The High Cost of Heart Disease

In 2010, the cost of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. was about $444 billion. That includes costs for treatment of:

  • Heart conditions
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • High blood pressure

Treatment of these diseases accounts for $1 of every $6 spent on health care in the U.S.

Direct medical costs. After a heart attack, there are immediate charges, such as:

  • Ambulance
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Hospital charges
  • Possible surgery

Long-term maintenance of heart disease is also expensive. The costs include:

  • Drugs
  • Testing
  • Cardiologist appointments

Indirect costs. The largest indirect costs are lost productivity and income, though many people may be able to return to work a few months after having a heart attack.

Protecting Yourself From the Medical Costs of Heart Disease

Here's what you can do to protect yourself and your family from the financial costs of heart disease:

Look into cheaper medication. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are generic substitutes that might work as well but cost less. Many drug companies also offer assistance programs that will get you discounted medication.

Check your health insurance policy. "The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is make sure that you have adequate health insurance," says cardiologist Paul A. Heidenreich, MD, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University. Learn exactly what your policy covers.

The health care reform law will prevent insurers from declining coverage because of heart disease or other preexisting conditions. This will be enforced beginning in 2014.

Consider disability insurance. If you're healthy now, getting disability insurance could be a smart idea. It will replace some of your lost income if you ever become disabled by heart disease or another condition and can't work.

If you've already had a heart attack or heart disease diagnosis, getting disability insurance will be more difficult and cost more. Some policies could still be available but they might exclude any health problems related to heart disease.

Preventing and Treating Heart Disease

You can help cut your risk of heart disease -- and the medical costs that go with it -- by making lifestyle changes. Even if you've already developed heart disease, it's not too late. Lifestyle changes can still have a big impact, Heidenreich says.

Try these tips:

Get more physical activity. Regular exercise can help you:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Control weight
  • Lower your risk of heart disease

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. That could be 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise -- such as brisk walking or biking -- five days a week.

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