Deaths due to stroke, heart disease drop

LOS ANGELES - Mortality rates from heart disease and stroke decreased sharply in Los Angeles County over the past decade, according to a report released this week by the Department of Public Health.Between 1997 and 2007, the heart disease mortality rate decreased by 41 percent and stroke mortality rate decreased by 39 percent, translating to approximately 9,000 lives saved annually from heart disease and approximately 2,000 lives saved from stroke. "These declines in heart disease and stroke mortality represent great improvements in the public's health, and they will become more important still as the population ages," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "However, a great deal of progress remains to be made. Many individuals may still experience preventable heart attacks or strokes. Progress has been made both in reducing risk factors such as smoking, but the prevalence of other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including obesity, lack of physical activity, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and tobacco use, remain very high." Information on heart attack and stroke mortality was compiled from Los Angeles County death certificate data and compared to data published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation ("Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2011 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association," published December 15, 2010). The report compares trends in heart disease and stroke mortality in Los Angeles County with those of the rest of the nation. "The American Heart Association is pleased with the progress Los Angeles County has made against heart disease and stroke," said Kathy Magliato, MD, board president, American Heart Association Greater Los Angeles Division. "As encouraging as this news is, it is important to recognize that there is so much more to do. Heart disease and stroke remain the No. 1 and No. 3 killers in the country and several major risk factors for these diseases have not seen the same decline as death rates - in fact, several are on the rise and are appearing at earlier ages than ever before. If this trend continues, death rates could begin to rise again in the years ahead and we will see our children developing heart disease at a young age, dying early or requiring medical care sooner. The financial and emotional toll will be detrimental to Los Angeles." Heart Disease: ‚óè In 1996, Los Angeles County experienced approximately 239 deaths per 100,000 people due to heart disease. (Nationwide, there were 170 deaths per 100,000 people.) ‚óè In 2007, Los Angeles County experienced approximately 141 deaths per 100,000 people due to heart disease (a 41 percent decrease from 1996). ‚óè Despite these encouraging numbers, heart disease mortality remains 12 percent higher in LA County than for the U.S. as a whole. Nationwide, there were approximately 126 deaths per 100,000 people. Stroke: ‚óè In 1996, Los Angeles County experienced approximately 59 deaths per 100,000 people due to stroke. (Nationwide, there were approximately 64 deaths per 100,000 people.) ‚óè By 2007 in Los Angeles County, there were approximately 36 deaths per 100,000 people due to stroke (a 39 percent decrease from 1996). ‚óè The stroke mortality rate in Los Angeles County in 2007 was 14 percent lower than the rate nationwide (42 deaths per 100,000 for the nation). Reasons for the decrease: There are a number of factors that are likely contributing to the decrease in heart disease and stroke mortality in the county. These include more effective medical treatment of high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, public education on heart attack and stroke warning signs so that individuals seek care more quickly, and improvements in medical and surgical treatment of heart attack, stroke, and their complications. In addition, the county has seen a continued decline in smoking among adults (from 18.2 percent in 1997 to 14.3 percent in 2007) as a result of very effective public health campaigns. Next steps: To sustain the impressive progress in reducing heart disease and stroke mortality, efforts are needed to ensure access to health care for all county residents so they can benefit from recommended preventive services (including treatment of elevated blood pressure and cholesterol) and emergency and follow-up care for heart disease and stroke and their complications. Continued efforts are also needed to educate the public on the warning signs of heart disease and stroke. Increasing focus must be placed on prevention by addressing the underlying risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including tobacco use, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, and obesity. These efforts must include not only intensive public education but also a focus on policies that create healthier environments, where the healthy choice becomes the easy choice - for example, communities where there is ready access to affordable, healthy foods and abundant opportunities for physical activity, and where smoking is discouraged.

********** Published: April 14, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 52