By AMELIA HAVANEC
Capital News Service
LANSING – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 610,000 people every year – one in every four deaths – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cardiovascular disease is a common term. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ACD) is not, however, and Michigan residents are dying of this malady at a significantly higher rate than the national average.
Earlier this year, the CDC issued a map reporting the cause of death most distinct to each state.
Michigan residents are more at risk for ACD than Floridians, but Floridians are more at risk for HIV.
Among the Great Lakes states, it’s kidney disorders in Illinois. For Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio, it’s lower respiratory infections.
But what is ACD, and why do so many Michigan residents fall victim to it?
ACD is hardening of the arteries from plaque build up inside the arterial wall caused by fat and cholesterol.
Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body. If arteries harden, blood flow throughout the body becomes restricted and can lead to heart attack, stroke or death.
“We have an obesity problem in Michigan and so I’m not surprised by the data,” said Joel Kahn, a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Our obesity rates are enough to explain our higher atherosclerotic heart disease rates.”
While obesity itself doesn’t cause atherosclerosis, it is associated with high blood pressure and diabetes – and all are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
So an obese individual is more likely to have arterial blockage and a higher heart attack risk, according to Kahn. However not all of those who fit into the obese category are doomed.
“It’s really a lifestyle factor, environmental factor, cultural factor and work-related factor,” Kahn said. “Heart disease is a tragedy that is unnecessary and preventable.
“We don’t have worse genes in Michigan. We’ve just let our diets and fitness go to hell.”
The CDC-developed map is based on data on 113 causes of death.
The death rates for all 113 were tallied nationally and by state, and numbers for each state were compared with rates nationwide.
There were 37,292 deaths from ACD mapped in Michigan from 2000 to 2010, the researchers reported.
To help prevent atherosclerotic heart disease, the CDC recommends eating a heart healthy diet with foods lower in sodium, ceasing smoking, having regular blood pressure readings and maintaining a healthy weight.
Deirdre Mattina, a senior staff cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, urges people to determine their risk for heart disease early on, not waiting for a heart attack or stroke before they take action.
“I think people should be concerned,” Mattina said. “A lot of people feel that having to take a medication for prevention is a failure on their part in terms of lifestyle and things. But we have seen that even people with normal cholesterol levels have heart attack and stroke frequently.
“There’s something about the milieu of buildup in the arteries, despite actual cholesterol levels itself that we can see these medications reduce,” added Mattina. “Diet and exercise has always been a supplement to medical therapy, but the trend is our nation is that we are more sedentary and making poor food choices.
Mattina said it is unrealistic to say that the trend can be reversed quickly. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services agrees.
“In the next 15 years, heart disease cases in Michigan are expected to rise from 600,000 to 2.9 million if we are not able to continue state heart disease and stroke prevention programming,” said Jennifer Eisner, a public information officer for the department.
More than $10 billion was spent in 2010 on heart disease-related medical costs in Michigan, according to data from the department.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR CNS EDITORS
Department of Health and Human Services: www.michigan.gov/mdhhs