Study Looks at Heart Disease Risk Across the U.S.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 800,000 dying each year. A new study compares more than 3,000 U.S. counties, showing disparities in health outcomes based on location. Haitham Ahmed, M.D., comments.

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CLEVELAND – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 800,000 dying each year.

A new study compares more than 3,000 U.S. counties in regard to deaths from heart disease.

Haitham Ahmed, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said that overall, heart disease related deaths have been declining, but not for everyone.

“That decline has not been the same for everyone,” said Dr. Ahmed. “So some counties have had a significant decline, and they’ve had significant health improvements, some counties have been left behind, and particularly the ones that have not had a significant change have been those counties in the south east.”

Researchers looked at death rates due to heart disease throughout the U.S. over the past 30 years. They found that rates from the 1980’s have decreased significantly by about 50 percent.

However, for clusters in southeastern Oklahoma, stretching across the Mississippi River valley and upward to southeastern Kentucky, there remains a high incidence of deaths from both heart attacks and stroke.

Dr. Ahmed said the results of the study are not surprising and that there is still work to be done to improve the health outcomes of the folks in these areas.

He said that factors that can improve health outcomes include access to high quality care, the addition of more walkable communities and biking lanes as well as educational campaigns that target high-risk groups, empowering residents in these areas with the knowledge that they need to be able to make heart-healthy choices.

Dr. Ahmed said the good news is that, in most cases, the risk factors for heart attack and stroke are reversihaithamble.

“At least 50 percent of cardiovascular disease is due to modifiable risk factors,” said Dr. Ahmed. “Mainly, quitting smoking can have a huge impact on your risk.”

Dr. Ahmed added that exercising, losing weight, changing diet, partnering with a doctor to reduce blood pressure, and taking the right medicines to aggressively control cholesterol, can all lower a person’s risk of heart disease tremendously.

Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA.

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