February 3, 2010
Where you live could play an important factor in your risk for heart disease.
Ongoing surveys by the Centers for Disease Control indicate that people in some regions of the U.S. - particularly the Southeast — have a higher risk of chronic heart disease because of various social and economic factors.
The CDC's latest report on its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System findings, published in 2007, showed that the risk of developing heart disease corresponds not only with differences in age but also with different levels of education - less education equals more risk. The phone research asked a sampling of adults if a doctor has ever told them they had experienced a heart attack or stroke, or if they had been diagnosed with chronic heart disease. Demographic information also was collected — on age, ethnicity, sex, education and geographic location.
Because the states deemed the "worst" risk of cardiac heart disease were mostly in the Southeast, some have dubbed this region the "Heart Attack Belt." States in the Northeast and West topped the list of healthiest states.
Separately, the CDC's Healthy People and Healthy Places Initiative advocates for changes in community design and planning that will promote better health. The CDC identifies a number of community factors that contribute to health, including transportation, housing, access to services and discrimination by social groupings.
While some risk-increasing factors such as genetics, environmental pollutants and access to services are difficult to control on a personal level, others can be changed. Health officials and organizations around the country are working to improve Americans' health and reduce the chance of heart disease, stroke and heart attack by targeting factors such as exercise level, smoking, nutrition and weight.
How does your state rank?
America's Health Rankings, a company that uses data from the CDC and other sources, publishes an annual state-by-state ranking of national health issues.
For 2009, Vermont residents were at the top of the list for overall healthiest states, climbing steadily up from No. 20 in 1990. Utah went from fifth to second, followed by Massachusetts (3), Hawaii (4) and New Hampshire (5) to round out the top five healthiest states in 2009.
For the second year in a row, Utah leads the nation for nonsmokers and Colorado has the fewest obese people.
For heart-specific issues, Colorado ranks first for lowest percent of adult population with cardiac heart disease (2.7 percent), while seven states in the Southeast dominate the "unhealthy" bottom 10. They include Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and West Virginia.
Minnesota reported the lowest rate of cardiovascular deaths in 2009, with 212.6 per 100,000 population. And Mississippi had the most, with 378.5 per 100,000 population.
You can search the full database at americashealthrankings.org.
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