Cardiovascular diseases are some of the leading causes of death, killing nearly 800,000 Americans each year. But more than a quarter of these deaths can be prevented through simple changes in health habits, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a report released on Tuesday, the CDC found at least 200,000 deaths caused by heart disease and stroke each year are preventable, and more than half of those deaths happened to people under the age of 65. The CDC analyzed data on deaths in the United States between 2001 and 2010 and found that lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and consuming less salt, could have prevented many of the deaths.
"Despite progress against heart disease and stroke, hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from these preventable causes of death," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in a statement. "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 report also found that African-Americans are nearly twice as likely as whites to die from preventable heart disease and stroke. That higher rate comes from an increased prevalence of other risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and low fruit and vegetable consumption. The report says that past studies indicating the disparity in avoidable deaths between whites and blacks reflects "differences in education, income, living conditions, and access to health care."
Death rates were also higher for older adults between the ages of 65 and 74. Since 2001, there has also been progress in reducing the number of preventable deaths for older Americans – that number has decreased by about 30,000. But in the same time, the number of preventable deaths for those under 65 has remained constant, and high, and has increased by 2,000.
Preventable death rates were also higher for people who live in the South, an area that has been nicknamed the "Stroke Belt." The states with the lowest rates were Minnesota, Utah, Colorado, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Although all states experienced declines in preventable death rates since 2001, the states with the largest declines already had the lowest rates (New Hampshire and Rhode Island), and those with the slowest declines had higher rates (Oklahoma and Arkansas). The rates also varied on a local level within counties, suggesting a need for local policy changes to "improve access to quality health care and enhance or create the physical, social, and built environments needed to support healthy lifestyles," the report says.