Americans' heart health varies significantly from state to state

Americans' cardiovascular health varies greatly from state to state, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

The study is the first to assess cardiovascular health at the state level.

"Since the (CDC) is funding state heart disease and programs, we thought it would be helpful to have cardiovascular health information on the state level, to help better focus our efforts," said Jing Fang, M.D., M.S., an epidemiologist with the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.

Using 2009 data from the Surveillance System – a telephone survey of more than 350,000 people in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. –researchers collected information on the 's seven major heart-health factors: blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking, , diabetes, physical activity, and fruit and . These factors are used as a proxy measure in this study for a healthy diet.

Researchers found:

  • The percentage of the population reporting ideal cardiovascular health—defined as having optimal levels of all seven factors—was lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi and highest in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia.
  • About 3 percent of the total U.S. population reported having ideal heart health.
  • About 10 percent of the total population reported having poor cardiovascular health, with two or less heart-health factors at optimal levels.
  • In general, people living in western and New England states reported having a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
"Americans reported having on average more than four of the seven ," Fang said. "We also found large disparities by age, sex, race/ethnicity and levels of education."
  • Those who were 65 or older reported the lowest percentage of ideal heart health while the 35-54 age group reported the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
  • Women said they were faring better than men.
  • Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reported highest rates of heart health while Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives fared most poorly.
  • Those in the highest education group reported better health than the other groups.
Estimates in the report could help those charged with preventing heart disease and stroke set statewide goals for reducing risk and improving cardiovascular health.

"This study gives us important information about the factors and behaviors that need the most improvement in each state to achieve the American Heart Association's goal of improving cardiovascular health for all Americans," Fang said.

The American Heart Association goal is, by the year 2020, to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

"The comparisons offered by Fang and colleagues illustrate a critical point: Cardiovascular health status in the United States varies considerably by age, sex, race/ethnicity and education as well as by state," said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association and author of an editorial that accompanies the Fang paper in JAHA.

"This diversity necessitates that innovative, customized strategies be developed to most effectively improve cardiovascular health for specific states and among subpopulations."

Learn your heart health score and find out about the 7 heart at www.MyLifeCheck.heart.org .

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