According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 200,000 deaths caused by heart disease and stroke could have been prevented through changes in health habits. 

These changes include smoking cessation, increased physical activity, less salt in the diet, and proper management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

RELATED: Cardiovascular Disease Resource Center

A recent publication of the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report analyzed the National Vital Statistics System mortality data  for 2001–2010. 

“Avoidable death” was defined as those resulting from an underlying cause of heart disease (ischemic or chronic rheumatic), stroke, or hypertensive disease in decedents aged <75 years. “Avoidable causes of death” are either preventable, as in preventing cardiovascular events by addressing risk factors, or treatable, as in treating conditions once they have occurred.

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Study results showed that in 2010, an estimated 200,070 avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive disease occurred in the U.S., 56% of which occurred among persons aged <65 years. The overall age-standardized death rate was 60.7 per 100,000. During 2001–2010, the overall rate declined 29%, and rates varied by age.

Researchers were able to conclude that nearly one fourth of all cardiovascular disease deaths are avoidable. These deaths disproportionately occurred among non-Hispanic blacks and residents of the South. 

Although the highest death rate occurred among those aged 65–74 years, the younger age groups (aged <65 years) still experienced a substantial number of avoidable deaths and a relatively slower rate of decline during 2001–2010. The slower decline in avoidable deaths in younger age groups in this report emphasizes the need to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment efforts in younger adults.

The overall decrease in deaths from ischemic heart disease (the largest contributing cause) can be attributed to both improvements in risk factors and changes in cardiac treatments.

A joint effort between health care and public health is critical to reduce the burden of avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive disease. Healthcare providers can:

  • Use electronic health records to identify and support patients who need help quitting smoking or who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Use national quality indications including “controlling high blood pressure” to monitor progress and carry out clinical improvements, such as team-based care
  • Counsel patients to make healthy lifestyle choices and follow patients’ progress
  • Refer patients to community resources, such as smoking quitlines and blood pressure self-management programs

For more information call (800) 232-4636 or read the complete Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report here.