ATLANTA, Nov. 8 -- The state in which you live may help predict your risk of early death from heart disease, according to research being presented today at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.
Researchers have found striking variations in heart disease rates throughout the U.S. The study looked at 1994 death rates from heart disease in young men between the ages of 35 and 44. The study group is the first comprised entirely of male baby boomers born after World War II.
"The reason we were interested in this specific group of men is because we believe that lifestyle is a major factor in early death from heart disease," says lead researcher Akira Sekikawa, M.D., Ph.D, an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.
Genes can play a role in increasing an individual's risk of premature cardiac death. But the study looks at populations, so the effects of genetics on this age group would be the same across the population. Thus, any regional variation observed would be due to other factors such as lifestyle. Furthermore, researchers say that most deaths in this age group are sudden deaths that occur outside of a hospital. "This also suggests that these deaths are due to lifestyle rather than medical care, says Sekikawa. "If we could learn how lifestyle contributed to these deaths we could better target programs aimed at preventing early death from heart disease."
Not surprisingly, researchers found that states with the highest rates of cigarette smoking -- Kentucky and Tennessee -- also had the highest rates of heart disease deaths. The researchers say that if cigarette smoking declined in those states the number of early deaths from heart disease would also decline.
The researchers also found that male residents of some states have five times the risk of dying young from heart disease compared to other states. And their analysis also challenges some common ideas about high-risk gro
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association