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Posted: December 23, 2008

Heart Disease, Stroke Deaths Drop 30%; Lifestyle Risks Still Too High

Deaths from heart disease and stroke have dropped by 30% since 1999, but there’s still trouble on the horizon with obesity and sedentary lifestyles all too common in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. 

The good news, tempered with caution, is contained in the association’s updated statistical survey, which was published online in AHA’s medical journal Circulation.


AHA said the reductions in the coronary heart disease (30.7%) and stroke (29.2%) death rates mark the achievement of major milestones it set previously to reduce coronary heart disease and stroke by 25% by 2010. This latest preliminary data for 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, reflects further reductions from the 2005 numbers announced earlier in 2008.


However, while recognizing the much improved survival rate for victims of heart disease, which is the nation’s No. 1 killer, and stroke, which is the No. 3 most common cause of death, the heart association expressed concern that the prevalence of unhealthy lifestyles in the United States could threaten the progress.


"Our work isn't done, since the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke have not seen the same declines as the death rates, and several (risk factors) are rising," said AHA President Dr. Timothy Gardner.


“If this trend continues, death rates could begin to rise again in the years ahead,” Gardner added. “While we have seen better control of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and tobacco use, we still have much work to do on these risk factors -- and progress continues to lag in obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity.” 


The AHA report highlighted these data points on risk factors for cardiovascular disease as center-most in the association’s efforts to improve:

“The challenge we face with reducing risk factors is figuring out what motivates people to change behavior, narrowing the gaps in gender and socioeconomic disparities, and assessing what we can do on a broad scale to affect the environments where people live, work and play,” Gardner said.

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