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200,000 cardiac fatalities a year deemed avoidable

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By The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — At least 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke can be prevented each year by quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol and taking aspirin when recommended by a physician, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a study published Tuesday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers found that the rate of avoidable deaths from cardiovascular disease had dropped 29 percent from 2001 to 2010.

However, researchers found the pattern of decline differed by age, race and state of residence. They concluded that more could be done to address the problem.

“These findings are really striking. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths that don't have to happen,” the CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, said at a news briefing. “It's possible for us to make rapid and substantial progress in reducing these deaths.”

In the United States, about 800,000 people die of heart disease and stroke each year, according to the report. That's nearly 30 percent of all U.S. deaths, every year.

Although rates of avoidable death dropped most substantially for people age 65 to 74, it remained unchanged for people younger than 65, according to lead study author and epidemiologist Linda Schieb and her colleagues.

“Many heart disease and stroke deaths could be avoided through improvements in lifestyle behaviors, treatment of risk factors and addressing the social determinants of health (i.e. economic and social conditions that influence the health of individuals and communities),” study authors wrote.

“Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors (e.g. tobacco use, infrequent physical activity, poor diet and excessive alcohol use) coupled with uncontrolled hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and obesity account for 80 percent of ischemic heart disease mortality and approximately 50 percent of stroke mortality in high-income countries such as the United States.”

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