Study Looks at Differences in Heart Health by State

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Live in the great state of Vermont? You probably have one of the highest levels of cardiovascular health in the nation since you probably try to manage the lifestyle issues -- including diet, exercise and weight -- that lead to heart health. And what if you live in Mississippi? Chances are your overall cardiovascular health isn’t as good.


    Those are the findings from researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a large study that was just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The researchers analyzed data collected in 2009 in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a telephone survey of more than 350,000 people in every state as well as the District of Columbia. In this data included the seven major heart-health indicators – physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol and diabetes.

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    The measures that they used to define ideal cardiovascular health metrics were:

    • Hypertension – Ideal cardiovascular health was defined as an answer of “no” when asked if a health professional had told the person that he/she had high blood pressure.
    • High blood cholesterol - Ideal cardiovascular health was defined as an answer of “no” when asked if a health care professional had diagnosed the person with high blood cholesterol.
    • Diabetes - Ideal cardiovascular health was defined as an answer of “no” when asked if a doctor had told the person that he/she had diabetes.
    • BMI - A BMI that is between 18.5 and 24.9.
    • Smoking – The person had not smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime or reported smoking 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, but was not currently smoking.
    • Physical activity – The person did enough moderate or vigorous physical activity to meet the recommendation of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of aerobic physical activity.
    • Healthy diet – Consumed five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

    The findings by Dr. Jing Fang, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention who led the research team, included:

    • Approximately three percent of the total U.S. population said they had ideal heart health.
    • Approximately 10 percent of the total population reported poor cardiovascular health, with two or fewer heart-health factors at optimal levels.
    • In general, those living in New England and western states reported that they had a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
    • People who were 65 and older reported having the lowest percentage of ideal heart health.
    • People between the ages of 35-54 had the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
    • Women reported having better heart health than men.
    • Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reporting were found to have the highest rates of heart health.
    • Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives had the lowest rates of reported heart health.
    • People who had the highest level of education reported having better heart health than people with less levels of education.

    The states with the highest percentage of the population meeting ideal cardiovascular health (all seven metrics) was in the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Vermont, Virginia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Wyoming, Minnesota, Arizona, Maryland and Idaho.


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    The states with the lowest levels of poor cardiovascular health (having 0-2 metrics on the seven-metric scale) were Oklahoma, West Virginia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Arizona (which did end up on both lists), Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.


    “This diversity necessitates that innovative, customized strategies be developed to most effectively improve cardiovascular health for specific states and among subpopulations,” said Dr. Donna Arnett, president of the American Heart Association and author of an editorial that appears in the Journal of American Heart Association along with the paper by Dr. Fang.


    The researchers decided to undertake this study because the CDC is funding state programs focused on preventing heart disease and strokes. They hope to help policymakers and medical professionals tailor their efforts toward specific states through setting state-wide goals.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    American Heart Association. (2012). Americans’ heart health varies significantly from state to state.


    Arnett, D. K. (2012). Divided states of America: Regional variation in cardiovascular health. Journal of the American Heart Association.


    Journal of the American Heart Association. Fang, J., et al. (2012). Status of cardiovascular health among adult Americans in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 2009. Journal of the American Heart Association.

Published On: December 20, 2012