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Apr 04, 2014

Heart Attack Survival Rates Poorest in the South

Southerners more likely to die from heart attack than any other U.S. region, according to a recent study.

Through advances in prevention and treatment, more Americans now survive heart attacks than ever before. Still, Southerners are more likely to die from heart attack than anywhere else in the country, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

Using data from a national hospital registry, researchers investigated heart attack survival trends in different regions of the country from 2000 to 2010. After identifying more than 12.9 million heart attack cases, researchers found that heart attack deaths significantly declined over this time period. However, death rates were highest in the South, where heart attack survival rates varied greatly by race. In the South, African-Americans had a 50% higher risk of heart attack death compared to whites and Hispanics had a 15% higher risk.

Lead study investigator, Sadip Pant, MD, says that this gap in outcomes is unacceptable. “We’ve made great strides in the way we treat our heart disease patients in this country,” says Pant. “Especially with [advances in] new medication, technologies and treatment protocols.”

Study analysis also showed that Southerners had a lower median income and were much more likely to have risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity and high blood pressure, compared to other areas in the country. “Lower household income in the region may play a role by affecting the type of care people receive, how well they are able to manage their risk factors, how often they see their doctors and whether they have access to the proper medications,” says Pant.

Pant hopes this study will raise awareness for the significant healthcare disparities that exist depending on where one lives in the United States. He also hopes that experts can develop a system that helps better serve patients in the South to improve heart attack survival rates. By increasing access to quality healthcare and helping Southerners reduce their risk for heart disease, authors believe we can improve survival rates and help eliminate gaps in health care disparities in the South.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Who is at risk for heart attack?
  • The most common risk factors for heart attack include increased age, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, stress, illegal drug use, lack of physical activity and family history of heart attack.
  • How can you increase chances of survival during a heart attack?
  • When someone is having a heart attack, recognizing signs and symptoms immediately is key. Major warning signs include chest pain, pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and cold sweats. Calling 911 and seeking immediate medical attention at the first signs of a heart attack can significantly improve chances of survival.

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