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American Heart Association Delaware

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Poorer counties have higher heart failure death rates

Americans who live in counties with high poverty rates are more likely to die from heart failure compared to people living in more affluent areas, new research says.

The prevalence of diabetes and obesity largely explained the link, said the researchers, whose work was published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood. For each 1% increase in a county's poverty status, researchers saw heart failure deaths increase by about 5 per 100,000 people.

About two-thirds of the relationship between poverty and heart failure deaths was explained by the prevalence of diabetes and obesity, said the researchers, who were led by Dr. Khansa Ahmad at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

They reviewed data about heart failure, poverty, education, unemployment and health insurance status from 3,155 counties. Data was pulled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Census Bureau databases.

The link between poverty and heart failure deaths was strongest in the South. The study saw a difference of approximately 250 deaths per 100,000 people between the poorest and the most affluent counties.

"This study underscores the disparities in health care faced by many Americans," said Dr. Jennifer Ellis in a news release. Ellis, who was not involved in the new study, is chief of cardiothoracic surgery at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue in New York and is an adviser to the American Heart Association's EmPOWERED to Serve, which addresses health justice.

"As health care providers, we need to understand the barriers to a healthy lifestyle faced by patients, such as living in areas with no access to healthy food or safe places to walk."

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

Category: Heart Health, Advocacy, Education, & Support
Our Mission ~ To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

About Us ~ For nearly 100 years, we've been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives.

The six cardiologists who founded the American Heart Association in 1924 would be amazed.

From humble beginnings, the AHA has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. A shared focus on cardiovascular health unites our more than 33 million volunteers and supporters as well as our more than 3,400 employees. Learn more about our impact over time.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Our size and scope let us have real impact. We have invested more than $4.1 billion in research, more than any U.S. nonprofit organization.
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