Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stroke and heart diseases top the list of killers in the United States

HealthDay News: Rising obesity and poor nutrition are keeping heart disease at the top of the list of America's fatal illnesses, according to the 2007 edition of the American Heart Association's annual statistical round-up.

"Changes in lifestyle behaviors such as healthy diet and exercise could reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease," Wayne Rosamond, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina and chairman of the committee that drew up the report, said in a statement.

Instead, cardiovascular disease remains the nation's leading cause of death, accounting for 36.3 percent of all deaths, said the report, published in the journal Circulation. Heart disease topped the list of causes of death for Americans, with stroke third (behind cancer).

Stroke got special mention in this year's AHA report. Some 700,000 Americans experience a stroke each year, and the report concentrates on transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), often called "mini-strokes." These attacks are temporary arterial blockages that produce milder stroke-like symptoms that do not persist.

"People underestimate the importance of TIAs," Virginia Howard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and chairwoman of the association's stroke statistics committee, said in a prepared statement. "About half of patients who have a TIA fail to report it to their health care provider, which is a terrible oversight considering the chance of a major stroke in the weeks or months following TIA."

On the more hopeful side, the report noted that the U.S. death rate from stroke had fallen by 20.4 percent from 1994 to 2004.

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