Risk Factors and Reality: Heart Disease in Southeastern Pennsylvania
Monday. January 20, 2003
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America and is the leading cause of long-term disability. The cost of cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the United States is extraordinarily high to the individual, his/her family, and to society as a whole. In 2002 these costs were estimated at $329.2 billion. This figure includes health expenditures as well as lost productivity resulting from morbidity and mortality (American Heart Association). Fortunately the major risk factors for heart disease, such as tobacco use, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition can be addressed with healthy lifestyles.
In Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2000, 8,045 people died of coronary heart disease (PA Dep't of Health and Phila. Dep't of Public Health). Many more adults suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart problems. The following data from PHMC's 2002 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey describe the prevalence and extent of these problems among adults ages 18+ in the region.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure that is not controlled can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. According to the American Heart Association, one in four U.S. adults has high blood pressure. However, because there are often no symptoms, many of these people are not aware of their condition.
- In Southeastern Pennsylvania, nine out of ten adults report that they have had a blood pressure reading in the past year.
- More than one-quarter of adults in the region (27.8%) have been told by a health professional that they have high blood pressure, representing 801,500 adults. Nearly nine out of ten (86.7%) are currently doing something to control their hypertension.
- Greater than one-half of adults 60 years of age and older have high blood pressure (54.3%). This is nearly twice that of adults ages 40-59 (28%) and more than four times that of adults ages 18-39 (11.6%).
- African American adults (38.3%) are more likely than white (26.2%), Latino (20.5%), and Asian (10.3%) adults to have high blood pressure.
- More than one-third of adults who live below the federal poverty level have high blood pressure (38.8%). This percentage is much higher compared to nonpoor adults (26.5%).
- One-third of adults (35.4%) who have high blood pressure report that their health is fair or poor compared to 13.2 percent of adults without high blood pressure.
- Eighteen percent of adults with high blood pressure smoke cigarettes, representing 145,500 adults. Of these adults, one-third did not receive any recommendation from a doctor that they quit smoking (30.3%). Among adults with high blood pressure who smoke one-half of these adults (56.3%) have tried to quit smoking in the past year.
- Three-quarters of adults with high blood pressure are obese or overweight. This represents greater than half a million adults (595,300).
- Greater than one-half of adults with high blood pressure (55.6%) exercise less than twice a week or never, representing 441,900 adults who do not exercise on a regular basis.
- Although cholesterol occurs naturally in all parts of the body, if too much cholesterol is present in the bloodstream the excess is deposited in the arteries. When the coronary arteries become narrowed or clogged, arteriosclerosis occurs. This limits the amount of blood that circulates easily in the body and to the heart. As a result, many individuals with arteriosclerosis suffer with heart conditions such as congestive heart failure and heart attack (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).
- Two thirds of Southeastern Pennsylvania adults (66.9%) have had a cholesterol check in the past year.
- One quarter of adults (25%) have high cholesterol, representing 707,800 adults. Of these adults, 84 percent are currently doing something to control their high cholesterol.
- Older adults are most likely to have high cholesterol. Forty-six percent of adults 60 years of age and older have high cholesterol compared to 10.4 percent of adults ages 18-39, and 26.8 percent of adults ages 40-59.
- Adults without a high school education are much more likely than adults with a high school education to have high cholesterol (35.4% vs. 23.8%, respectively).
- Twice as many adults with high cholesterol as those without high cholesterol report that they are in fair or poor health (30.6% vs. 15.5%, respectively).
- Nearly one out of five adults with high cholesterol (18.4%) smoke cigarettes, representing 132,000 adults. Greater than one-half of these adults tried to quit smoking in the past year. Among adults with high cholesterol who smoke, only two-thirds were told by their doctors to quit smoking (69.5%).
- Three-quarters of adults with high cholesterol are obese or overweight. This represents greater than half a million adults (521,100).
- Greater than one-half of adults with high cholesterol (54.5%) exercise less than twice a week or never, representing 389,100 adults who do not exercise on a regular basis.
- One out of eleven adults (9.2%) in Southeastern Pennsylvania has a heart condition, representing 264,100 adults.
- Eighty percent of these adults take a prescription medication for their heart condition.
The above data are from PHMC's Community Health Data Base 2002 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.
For more information about heart health visit the following:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Cholesterol Education Program