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Heart Disease, Stroke Deaths Down

August 6, 1999

ATLANTA (AP) _ Deaths from heart disease and stroke continue to decline because of greater awareness of causes and preventive measures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

However, heart disease and stroke remain leading causes of disability and death, and estimated costs including health expenditures and lost productivity are expected to be $286 billion in 1999, the CDC said.

Health care professionals have long observed a decline in fatality due to cardiovascular diseases in the United States. Death rates from coronary and hypertensive heart disease and rheumatic heart disease have decreased from a peak of 307.4 per 100,000 in 1950 to 134.6 in 1996, a decline of 56 percent, the CDC said.

Stroke deaths have decreased 70 percent in that time, from 88.8 per 100,000 in 1950 to 26.5 in 1996, the agency said.

The cause for the decline is attributed to many factors, including a drop in cigarette smoking among adults, an increase in medication for those with high blood pressure, improvements in medical care and diagnosis, and a greater awareness of proper diet as a preventive measure, such as lower fat and cholesterol.

However, the CDC said the overall reduction in deaths from heart disease and stroke masks differences in rates broken down by race/ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status and geographic region.

During 1985-1996, for example, heart disease mortality declined 29 percent among white men but only 10 percent among American Indian men and native Alaskan women. People of lower socioeconomic status have higher risks levels, and geographic areas with higher levels of those groups have higher incidence of the diseases and deaths.

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