October 13th, 2011
03:00 PM ET
The prevalence of heart disease in the United States is declining, though rates vary widely depending on gender, race, education and geography, according to new figures released by the government.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the prevalence of coronary heart disease decreased from 6.7% to 6.0% from 2006 to 2010. The results, based on a national telephone survey, were published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"That’s a very significant decline, from 6.7% to 6% in five years,” said Dr. Jerome Cohen, a board member of the National Lipid Association and professor emeritus in preventive cardiology at St. Louis University.
“The bottom line is good news and bad news,” Cohen added. “It shows what we can do [with treatment]. How we can do better is also shown by the wide disparities.”
Men, American Indians and native Alaskans, those with less than a high school education, and Southerners had significantly higher rates of heart disease, according to the CDC report.
Women, Asian, Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, those with advanced degrees, and residents in Hawaii and Connecticut had the lowest rates.
Cohen said access to care, lifestyle and education were all factors in these disparities.
Lead author Dr. Jing Fang said the decrease in prevalence of heart disease was consistent with a decline in high-risk populations: People with uncontrolled hypertension, uncontrolled LDL (bad) cholesterol, and smokers.
Last month, the CDC reported that these factors had declined significantly from 2000 to 2008, though a worrisome 50% of all Americans still have one of these major risk factors for heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer.
Among the CDC’s findings:
- The prevalence of heart disease among men in 2010 was 7.8%, compared with 4.6% for women.
- Some 11.6% of American Indians and native Alaskans reported having coronary heart disease; that figure was 6.5% for blacks, 6.1% for Hispanics, 5.8% for whites, and 3.9% for Asians, Hawaiians and Pacific islanders.
- Among people with less than a high school diploma, 9.2% reported having heart disease, compared with 4.6% with more than a college degree.
- Comparing states: Kentucky (8.2%) and West Virginia (8.0%) had the highest prevalence of heart disease. Hawaii (3.7%) and Connecticut (4.4%) had the lowest.
In the report, the CDC researchers conceded that the telephone survey relied on “self-reporting” but said this should not affect year-to-year comparisons.
The telephone survey did not include people who were living in institutions such as nursing homes and only included people with landlines. Also, the survey was conducted in English and Spanish, excluding those who speak only other languages.
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