Health Team

2 Top Killer Diseases Claiming Fewer Lives

Posted January 23, 2008

Two of America's top killers have claimed significantly fewer lives this decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have data that show deaths from heart disease are down 25.8 percent, and stroke deaths are down 24.4 percent since 1999.

That means the American Heart Association has achieved a goal it set for reducing deaths ffrom coronary heart disease and did it two years early. The AHA has almost met its goal for reducing stroke deaths.

The conditions are still the No. 1 and No. 3 causes of deaths in this country.

”We've been investing in research for a good number of years that have led to new therapies for heart disease and new ways to prevent heart disease. And we're applying them better. So we have things like angioplasty and stents and clot-busting drugs that are helping people survive heart attacks better,” said the American Heart Association's president, Dr. Dan Jones.

Jones said there are also better systems for getting heart patients to the hospital and into life-saving treatment more quickly. Prevention has also helped, including cholesterol-lowering therapies, which have improved. Fewer people are smoking, too.

Medical advances are still not reaching everyone, however.

“We still experience disparities in health outcomes in this country around race and gender and geography and socio-economic status, and so we need to be sure that everyone has the possibility of benefiting from these treatments and prevention,” Jones said.

If the overweight problem in children isn’t addressed, Jones said, the death rates could rise again.

So, what are the best lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke?

If you smoke, stop, said WRAL Health Team Physician Dr. Allen Mask. Also, know your numbers. Your blood pressure should be close to 120 over 80.

Then there's cholesterol numbers, especially LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol that leads to plaque buildup in the arteries. A person’s LDL shouldn't be more than 100.

People should also know their blood-sugar levels so their doctors will know if they’re at risk of diabetes. Eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly also help.


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