At least 200,000 Americans under age 75 die needlessly each year from heart disease and stroke that could have been prevented by doing four important things: quitting smoking, reducing cholesterol, controlling blood pressure and taking a daily low-dose aspirin if a doctor approves.
The findings are from a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that also points out that more than half of these avoidable deaths are occurring among those under 65.
"These findings are really striking. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths that don't have to happen," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., told reporters Tuesday.
The one bright spot in the CDC report is that the number of preventable deaths has declined about 25 percent in people aged 65 to 74 years over the past decade - possibly because they have access to Medicare, Frieden suggested.
Unfortunately, the rate has remained unchanged in people under age 65. In addition, men are more than twice as likely as women - and blacks twice as likely as whites - to die from preventable heart disease and stroke, according to data gathered from 2001 to 2010.
The states with the highest avoidable death rates were located primarily in the South, including the District of Columbia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana - areas, the study's authors noted, that have less access to health insurance coverage, as well as to simple things that boost health like bike lanes and workplace wellness programs.
The study, published Tuesday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that heart disease and stroke kills about 800,000 Americans each year, or one in three deaths. Heart disease is the number one cause of death, and stroke is number four.
Inadequate exercise, a high-sodium diet, and excessive alcohol use also increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, the study authors wrote.
Frieden also noted in a press conference that America's death rate from cardiovascular disease doesn't stack up well compared with other nations. Our rate is "about 50 percent higher than many similar countries around the world," he said.
Photo: Jasleen Kaur via flickr
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