More than 200,000 preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke happened in the United States in 2010, according to a new CDC report, with 56% of those deaths occurring in people younger than 65.
The report, published in the Sept. 3 issue of Vital Signs, looked at deaths from ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertensive disease or chronic rheumatic heart disease in people younger than 75. These deaths are considered avoidable because U.S. life expectancy is 78.7 and previous analyses have shown 100% of these deaths to be preventable through more effective public health measures, lifestyles changes or medical care.
Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, kill nearly 800,000 Americans each year, accounting for one in three deaths. However, the report authors noted that most cardiovascular disease can be managed or prevented in the first place by addressing risk factors.
Despite progress against heart disease and stroke, hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from these preventable causes of death, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. Many of the heart attacks and strokes that will kill people in the coming year could be prevented by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol and stopping smoking.
Nearly a quarter of deaths per year due to cardiovascular disease are considered preventable. Death rates in 2010 were highest among adults ages 65 to 74 (401.5 per 100,000 population). But preventable deaths have declined faster in that age group compared with those younger than 65.
The overall rate of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke went down nearly 30% between 2001 and 2010. Lack of access to preventive screenings and early treatment for hypertension and high cholesterol could explain the differences among age groups, according to the report. Through the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have access to health coverage and preventive care, including young people and other medically underserved groups, the report authors noted.
Race/ethnicity: Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die from preventable heart disease and stroke. Hispanics are slightly less likely than whites.
Sex: Avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke and hypertension were higher among males (83.7 per 100,000) than females (39.6 per 100,000). Black men have the highest risk. Hispanic men are twice as likely as Hispanic women to die from preventable heart disease and stroke.
Location: By state, avoidable deaths from cardiovascular disease ranged from a rate of 36.3 deaths per 100,000 population in Minnesota to 99.6 deaths per 100,000 in Washington, D.C. By county, the highest avoidable death rates in 2010 were concentrated primarily in the southern Appalachian region and much of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The lowest rates were in the West, Midwest and Northeast regions.
To save more lives from these preventable deaths, clinicians can encourage healthy habits at every patient visit, including not smoking, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking medications as directed, according to the report.
Providers should track patient progress on the ABCS of heart health aspirin when appropriate, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation. Healthcare systems can adopt and use electronic health records to identify patients who smoke or who have hypertension or high cholesterol and help providers follow and support patient progress.
Communities and health departments can help by promoting healthier living spaces, including tobacco-free areas and safe walking areas, according to the report. Local communities also can ensure access to healthy food options, including those with lower sodium.