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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Geography and heart disease: 06/05/2017

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Although overall deaths from heart diseases are declining, mortality rates vary significantly depending on where one lives in the U.S., suggests a new study and accompanying editorial recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study compares deaths from heart diseases in 3110 U.S. counties across the nation and finds the rates of dying from heart related illnesses are significantly different among counties often in the same town, state, or region.

The study finds the highest concentration of counties with high heart disease mortality rates (and we quote): "extended from southeastern Oklahoma across the Mississippi River Valley to eastern Kentucky' (end of quote).

The study also reports the overall mortality rate from heart disease declined across the U.S. from 1980-2014. More specifically, the death rate declined from about 507 deaths per 100,000 persons to about 253 deaths per 100,000, which is a comparative decline of about 50 percent.

The study's eight authors, who are all from the University of Washington, estimated mortality from all cardiovascular disease sources, including stroke and rheumatic heart disease. The authors compared heart diseases rates between 1980-2014 and assembled comparative county data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Human Mortality Database.

An editorial that accompanied the study implies the findings are akin to a Tale of Two Cities. The editorial's authors note the study's findings reinforce (and we quote): 'the substantial decline in the death rates from cardiovascular diseases in the United States represents one of the greatest biomedical research and public health achievements of the 20th century' (end of quote).

Conversely, the editorial's authors note the study also suggests the place where a person is born or resides is directly associated with their risk of dying from heart diseases.

The editorial's authors write (and we quote): 'Geographic variation in the social determinants of cardiovascular health is a compelling explanation for much of the variation explained (within the study)' (end of quote).

The editorial's authors add (and we quote): 'These social determinants include factors related to social status, such as poverty, income, education, occupation, lifestyle behaviors (diet, physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use, and substance abuse), housing quality, neighborhood environment, environmental pollution, and access to quality health care' (end of quote).

The editorial's three authors (who include the Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) conclude the findings (and we quote): 'serve as a critical reminder to challenge clinicians, investigators, and public health leaders to imagine a future in which an individual's risk of cardiovascular death is no longer determined by "the place" he or she was born or resides and no longer prevents pursing a healthy and fulfilling life' (end of quote).

Otherwise, the study adds to evidence about health disparities in the U.S. and provides a new roadmap where innovative public health investments could be provided to prevent the leading cause of death for Americans.

Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov has health topic pages devoted to heart diseases as well as health disparities. Both MedlinePlus.gov's heart diseases and health disparities health topic pages provide links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Clinical trials that may be occurring in your area can be found in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about health disparities and heart diseases as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page, please type 'health disparities' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'health disparities (National Library of Medicine).' Similarly, to find MedlinePlus.gov's heart diseases health topic page, please type 'heart diseases' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'heart diseases (National Library of Medicine).'

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!