U.S. heart disease rates on the downtrend

Posted Oct 15, 2011 by Joan Firstenberg
The prevalence of heart disease, America's number one killer, is waning. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the overriding reason for the decline is the exercise more and more people are doing.
A woman practices Yoga using a balance ball.
Photo by Adria Richards
New research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that just 6 percent of adults had heart disease in 2010. That's down from 6.7 percent in 2006. Experts say physical fitness is one of the reasons, but so is better treatment for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as declines in smoking.
USAToday reports that this is not an even dip. People living in certain states, like Kentucky and West Virginia, aren't on the bandwagon and are still reporting rates of heart disease well above the national averages.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, professor of cardiology at the University of California in Los Angeles and a spokesman for the American Heart Association says,
"Even larger reductions in prevalence, disability and death can achieved" across the United States with the right outreach and prevention efforts."
In order to get these results, CDC researchers went through national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys for 2006 through 2010.
Dr. Jing Fang, an epidemiologist with CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is an author of the study.
"In over five years, the prevalence of heart disease has decreased significantly."
The study revealed that some of the lowest heat disease rates were seen among people under age 65 and people with more than a college education. Women tended to have lower rates of heart disease, 4.6 percent than men, 7.8 percent.
The biggest declines were among whites, whose risk of heart disease dropped to 5.8 percent in 2010, from 6.4 percent in 2006. Hispanic Americans also experienced a significant dip in heart disease -- from 6.9 percent to 6.1 percent over the same time span.
CBS News reports that the rate of heart disease among African Americans went up slightly from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent. And American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest prevalence of heart disease, at 11.6 percent.
Overall, the rate of heart disease went up with increasing age. In 2010, almost 20 percent of those aged 65 and above had heart disease, compared with about 7 percent for those 45 to 64 years of age, and just over 1 percent of those aged 18 to 44.
The CDC says education seems to play an important role, as well. Heart disease showed up more in people without a high school education (9.2 percent), while people with some college education had a 6.2 percent rate and those with more than an undergraduate degree came up with a 4.6 percent rate.
Geography Was also a key factor. Life in Hawaii is good for your health. Just 3.7 percent of people living there had heart trouble, compared to 8 percent or more in West Virginia and Kentucky. Living in the South is not good for your health, since the odds of developing heart disease are the highest in that region.
Dr. Fonarow points out that even though Americans show an increase in obesity and diabetes, the study reveals a significant decline in the prevalence of coronary heart disease among men and women of all ages and at all educational levels.
Fonarow says,
"This is the direct result of improved detection and treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as smoking-prevention efforts.. These improvements reflect the tremendous efforts of the American Heart Association, the (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and other organizations to improve the prevention and treatment of heart disease."