About a quarter of the deaths from heart disease and stroke that occur yearly in the United States are preventable, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The deaths of more than 200,000 people ages 75 and younger from heart disease and stroke in 2010 could have been prevented through more effective public health measures, treatment or lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise, the report said. About 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease each year.
The rate of preventable deaths was higher for men (83.7 preventable deaths per 100,000 people) than women (39.6 preventable deaths per 100,000 people). The highest rate was among black men (143.0 preventable deaths per 100,000 people). [6 Easy Ways to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables]
More than half of the preventable deaths (56 percent) occurred in people younger than 65, the report said.
Although the rate of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke has declined over the last decade among people ages 65 to 74, the rate among those younger than 65 has remained unchanged, the report said.
"These findings are really striking because we're talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths that don't have to happen,"CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a news conference. "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."
The place with highest rate of preventable deaths was the District of Columbia, with 99.6 per 100,000 people. States that also had high rates were Mississippi (95 per 100,000 people), Oklahoma (89 per 100,000 people), Tennessee (88.8 per 100,000 people) and Louisiana (87.8 per 100,000 people).
The states with the lowest rates of preventable deaths were: Minnesota (36.3 per 100,000 people), Utah (36.9 per 100,000 people), Colorado (39.9 per 100,000 people), Connecticut (41.8 per 100,000 people) and New Hampshire (42.9 per 1000,000 people).
In terms of heart attack and stroke deaths, "Its unfortunate, but your longevity may be more likely to be influenced by your zip code than your genetic code," Frieden said.
One reason for the slow decline in preventable deaths among younger age groups could be that these groups are less likely to receive screenings and early treatment for conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The increase in availability of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the number of preventable heart attacks and strokes in younger people, Frieden said.
To prevent more deaths from heart disease and stroke, health care systems can use electronic health records to identify patients who smoke or have high blood pressure and cholesterol so that doctors can follow their progress toward heart-healthy behaviors, the CDC said.
Communities can promote tobacco-free areas and help ensure access to healthy foods, the CDC said. Individuals can increase their amount of daily exercise — such as taking several brisk, 10-minute walks daily, five times a week — and improve their diet by eating more fruits and vegetables, and fewer foods with high sodium and trans fat content.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.