New Yorkers are more likely to die of coronary heart disease — the nation's No. 1 killer -- than residents of every other state except Oklahoma. Want to help change those statistics? Change your lifestyle.
New Yorkers are more likely to die of coronary heart disease — the nation's No. 1 killer -- than residents of every other state except Oklahoma.
Want to help change those statistics? Change your lifestyle.
Government agencies, nonprofits, employers, insurers, schools and other community groups are all working on ways to lower those death rates and prevent heart disease.
The bottom line, though, is that the numbers won't change significantly until residents take better care of themselves.
“We've turned the emphasis all on big government programs,” cardiologist Dr. Jerel Zoltick of Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown said. “No one is talking about personal responsibility. I have yet to hear the politicians say we need to make major changes in how we serve food for our kids.
“We need exercise programs for our kids - mandatory. … That's what I want.”
Local experts give the Utica region kudos for its awareness of fitness, as evidenced by the annual Boilermaker Road Race in July; the American Heart Association's America's Greatest Heart Run and Walk every March and the health expo just before the heart run.
On the other hand, there are the parties after the Boilermaker and Heart Run, state fair salt potatoes and Riggiefest.
Clinton resident Janice Pezdek, 53, is trying to take care of her heart — but it took a heart attack in January to get her to step up her efforts. Others shouldn't wait so long, she said.
“I just think people have to realize how important their diet is and how important exercise is. Even though you look like you're physically healthy on the outside, on the inside you (could) have certain things going on that contribute to heart problems,” she said.
So just how bad off is the state? In 2004, 195.3 out of every 100,000 state residents died of coronary heart disease, compared to a rate of 150.2 across the country, according to the American Heart Association. (Oklahoma's rate was 208.8 and Minnesota's was 90.0, the nation's lowest.)
Coronary heart disease includes heart attacks and angina, which occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough blood.
The highest numbers come from counties in and near New York City, but the rate still is above the national average in the majority of counties, including Oneida, Herkimer and Otsego.
Why would Central New York be prone to heart disease? A few factors come into play, including:
Age: Heart disease is more common among older populations, such as those found in Central New York, but the statistics are adjusted to account for that.
Rural areas: A belt of rural counties just to the east of Oneida County, including Herkimer and Otsego counties, have higher rates of heart disease than Oneida County. Rural residents often have less access to health care, generally exercise less, are more likely to smoke and be obese and have a cultural tendency to toughen things out before they see a doctor, said cardiologist Dr. Jerel Zoltick of Bassett Healthcare.
Low socioeconomic status: Poorer, less educated populations generally are more likely to die of heart disease.
Lifestyle factors: Upstate residents are more likely to smoke than state and U.S. residents. They are more likely to have had at least one tooth pulled than other state residents. (Dental problems are a risk factor for heart disease.) And they are more likely to be overweight or obese than the average state resident, according to studies done by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Long winters: Dr. Fred Talarico speculated that upstate residents may exercise less because the lack of sunlight makes them more prone to depression and because winter weather simply makes regular exercise harder.
The good news?
New York used to have the nation's highest rate of coronary heart disease, according to CDC data from 1998, but rates have since fallen across the country, apparently faster in New York than in Oklahoma.
And New York has the lowest death rate in the country for stroke, a contradiction no one can definitively explain. But the numbers run close to or even higher than the national average in Central New York.
The toll of heart disease
- 6,672: Lives in New York in 2002
- $9.7 billion: In direct medical costs in New York in 2002
- $860 per state resident each year in total costs
- $448 billion: Projected cost in the U.S. this year, more than twice the amount cancer cost in 2007
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Department of Health
Heart health tips
- Don't smoke and avoid breathing in tobacco smoke.
- If you're overweight, lose weight.
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish.
- Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which contain trans fats.
- Limit fats, but get your fat calories from unsaturated fats.
- Choose foods with little salt, aiming for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.
- Eat foods with fiber, aiming for 25 to 30 grams a day.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week. If you can't get in big chunks of exercise, do it in 10-minute segments.
- Reduce stress. Make time to relax.
- Get your blood pressure screened at least every two years, more frequently if your numbers are high or you have risk factors for heart disease.
- Get your cholesterol checked at least every five years, more if it's high or you have other risk factors.
Source: American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic Web sites