More Than Half of Cardiovascular Deaths Are Preventable

Cardiovascular disease may be the leading cause of death in the United States, but half of those deaths can be prevented, according to researchers from Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

Cardiovascular disease may be the leading cause of death in the United States, but half of those deaths can be prevented, according to researchers from Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

The researchers analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Survelliance System national surveys from 2009 to 2010 to determine what effect reducing risk factors to specific target levels could have nationwide and published the results in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Although there were state-by-state variations in the amount of preventable fractions—southern states had the largest and western states had the smallest—of cardiovascular mortality, there is not a large different between the best-performing and worst-performing states.

"All states could benefit from more aggressive policies and programs to help reduce risk of death from heart disease," Shivani Patel, PhD, researcher in the Hubert Department of Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The preventable fraction of cardiovascular-related deaths associated with 5 factors—elevated cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and smoking—was 54% for men and 49.6% for women, the researchers found. This represents an unlikely, best-case scenario, however.

A more realistic achievement might be if all states achieved the risk factor levels in the best-performing states. However, reaching that level would result in preventing fewer than 10% of deaths.

Under this more feasible scenario, diabetes (1.7% and 4.1%), hypertension (3.8% and 7.3%), and smoking (5.1% and 4.4%) were associated with the largest preventable fractions among men and women, respectively.

“Even the best states aren’t doing that well,” Dr Patel told Reuters.

The factors tied to the highest proportion of preventable deaths were hypertension and smoking and approximately 80% of adults aged 45 to 79 years were exposed to at least 1 of the 5 risk factors.