More than 200,000 people died in 2010 from heart attacks and strokes that could have been prevented, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report, which appears in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is based on an analysis of death records for 2001 through 2010. Researchers focused on adults up to age 74 who died of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease, stroke and hypertensive disease (high blood pressure). They searched for deaths that could have been prevented by reducing CVD risk factors—such as diabetes, obesity, high blood cholesterol and lack of exercise—or by treating CVD once it occurred.
CVD is a leading killer of Americans, claiming some 800,000 lives every year, according to CDC.
The researchers found that nearly 1 in 4 cardiovascular deaths is avoidable. What’s more, 56% of the heart and stroke deaths noted in the report occurred in people younger than 65—suggesting that many adults are dying prematurely from a preventable cause.
Among the report’s other findings:
- Black men had the highest risk of preventable CVD deaths. Overall, black Americans were nearly twice as likely to die from avoidable CVD as white Americans.
- Avoidable deaths were highest among people living in the South.
- Although the number of preventable CVD deaths in older adults fell by nearly 30 percent from 2001 to 2010, the numbers for those younger than 65 changed very little. The finding suggests there’s a particular need to do more to rein in heart disease and stroke in younger adults.
According to CDC, some important actions people can take to lower their CVD risk include:
- Don’t smoke. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.
- Exercise regularly. Work toward a goal that includes at least 150 minutes weekly of moderately intense aerobic exercise—like brisk walking.
- Adopt a healthy diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and reduce the amount of sodium (salt) and artery-clogging fats in your meals.
- Watch your weight. Ask your doctor what is a healthy weight for you and how you can reach or maintain that goal.
- Manage health conditions. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or unhealthy blood cholesterol numbers, work with your doctor to control them.