Do You Live in Heart Attack City?
When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the results of a national survey about the prevalence of heart disease, the residents of some regions breathed a sign of relief while other just held their breaths. Released in 2007, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System study allows a regional analysis of heart disease prevalence and risk factors.

The phone research asked those over 18-years-old if a doctor had ever told them they had experienced a heart attack or stroke, or if they had been diagnosed with Chronic Heart Disease. Data was also collected on age, ethnicity, sex, education and geographic location.

The study found that the risk of developing heart disease increases not only with age but also with education - less education equals more risk. And, heart disease was highest among those of native or multiracial origins.

Because the 10 states deemed the "worst" risk were almost entirely in the southeastern United States, some dubbed this region the "Heart Attack Belt." The northeastern and western parts of the country were at the top of the healthiest list.

In its Healthy People and Healthy Places Initiative, the CDC identified some factors in regional differences health differences such as:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Access to services
  • Discrimination by social grouping (e.g., race, gender or class)
  • Social or environmental stressors

While some risk-increasing factors such as genetics, environmental pollutants and access to services are difficult to control, others can be changed. Health officials and organizations around the country are working to improve American's health and reduce the chance of stroke by targeting factors such as exercise level, smoking, nutrition and weight.

How Does Your State Rank?