More than 200,000 preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke occurred in the United States in 2010, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of these deaths happened to people younger than 65 years of age, and the overall rate of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke went down nearly 30 percent between 2001 and 2010, with the declines varying by age. Lack of access to preventive screenings and early treatment for high blood pressure and high cholesterol could explain the differences among age groups.
- Age: Death rates in 2010 were highest among adults aged 65-74 years (401.5 per 100,000 population). But preventable deaths have declined faster in those aged 65–74 years compared to those under age 65.
- Race/ethnicity: Blacks are twice as likely—and Hispanics are slightly less likely—as whites to die from preventable heart disease and stroke.
- Sex: Avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure 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 the District of Columbia. 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, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers can encourage healthy habits at every patient visit, including not smoking, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medicines as directed. Communities and health departments can help by promoting healthier living spaces, including tobacco-free areas and safe walking areas. Local communities also can ensure access to healthy food options, including those with lower sodium. Health care systems can adopt and use electronic health records to identify patients who smoke or who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and help providers follow and support patient progress.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC's Assessing Your Weight Web site.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week. For more information, see CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.
- Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC's Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site.
- Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, there are steps you can take to lower your risk for heart disease.
Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, closely monitor your blood sugar levels. Talk with your health care provider about treatment options.
- Take your medicine. If you're taking medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don't understand something.
Talk with your health care provider. You and your doctor can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease. Discuss your treatment plan regularly and bring a list of questions to your appointments.