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The Best and Worst States for Your Heart

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 19, 2012 -- Oklahoma may want to rethink parts of its official state meal -- designated by the legislature in 1988 -- which includes barbecue pork, chicken fried steak, sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried okra and squash, strawberries, black-eyed peas, grits, corn, cornbread, and pecan pie.

A new survey released today by the CDC suggests that close to 99% of adults in the Sooner State have one or more risk factors or behaviors that increase risk for heart disease -- the highest rate for any state in the nation.

Oklahomans were also less likely to report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day than residents of any other state, and they were among the most likely to report being overweight.

By way of contrast, Washington, D.C., had the largest number of residents with optimal heart health. Close to 7% of people living in D.C. who responded to the survey reported having no major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

State-by-State Heart Health

The study is the first to examine the nation’s heart health on a state-by-state basis. There were a few surprises, says CDC epidemiologist Jing Fang, MD, of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

The telephone survey included more than 350,000 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They were asked about seven key heart health indicators:

  • Blood pressure
  • Total cholesterol
  • Smoking status
  • Weight (as measured by body mass index)
  • Diabetes
  • Physical activity
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption

Based on the responses, the survey findings suggest that:

  • Just 3% of U.S. adults have ideal heart health.
  • About 10% adults in the U.S. have poor heart health.
  • The states with the fewest people with optimal heart health are Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi.
  • The places with the largest number of residents having no major risk factors for heart disease are Washington, D.C., Vermont, Virginia, and Connecticut.
  • People living in New England and in the western U.S. generally have better heart health than those living in the South and Midwest.
  • Just 14% of Oklahomans said they ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, compared to 31% of Washington, D.C., residents, the highest in the nation to meet this dietary goal.

Just 3% of Americans Heart-Healthy

Cardiologist Clyde W. Yancy, MD, says the real news in the survey is that so few American adults had none of the seven risk factors for heart disease.

Yancy is chief of the division of cardiology at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“We know that 80% of the burden of heart disease and stroke is preventable,” he says. “We have to get people to change their culture, to change their diets and their exercise patterns, and to treat their high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Each of the seven (risk factors) that were asked about in this survey can be addressed if people decide to do it.”

American Heart Association President Donna K. Arnett, MD, agrees.

“The number of people in the U.S. who have what the AHA would consider ideal cardiovascular health is low: only 3.3% of the population,” she says. “This reinforces the importance of the AHA’s goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by a factor of 20% by 2020. The report does show that there is not only need but much potential for improvement.”

The study, which was funded by the CDC, was published online today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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