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How to Prevent 200,000 U.S. Deaths
PHOTO: A mature couple is seen walking in a park in this undated photo.

Going for brisk walks can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. (Image credit: Paul Sutherland/Getty Images)

Simple steps such as walking more, upping fruit and vegetable consumption and keeping cholesterol levels, blood pressure and diabetes symptoms under control could help prevent 200,000 U.S. deaths every year, a new study has found.

The study, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, combined data from the National Vital Statistics System and the U.S. Census Bureau and found that cardiovascular disease contributed to about 200,000 "avoidable deaths" in 2010. Southern states had the highest rates of preventable deaths, and black people were nearly twice as likely to die early from heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure as white people.

"Many heart disease and stroke deaths could be avoided through improvements in lifestyle behaviors, treatment of risk factors and addressing the social determinants of health," the study authors wrote in their report, citing the impact of "economic and social conditions" such as access to safe areas for exercise on the health of individuals and communities.

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The rate of preventable deaths nationwide is down slightly from 2001, when 227,961 Americans aged 75 and younger died from cardiovascular disease, according to the study. But some states are making more progress than others. The rate in Wyoming, for example, is down only 1.6 percent from 2001 compared with Rhode Island's 4.7 percent drop.

But it's states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi that have the researchers particularly worried. All four states continue to have avoidable death rates exceeding 87 per 100,000 residents.

"These deaths disproportionately occurred among non-Hispanic blacks and residents of the South," the study authors wrote.

The researchers hope better access to health care will keep death rates dropping, but said Americans can take matters into their own hands by limiting salt consumption, taking all appropriate medications and working healthy foods and exercise into their daily routines.

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Here's the CDC's full list of ways to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease:

  • Know your blood pressure and keep it in check
  • Know your cholesterol numbers and talk to your doctor about how to manage them
  • Keep diabetes under control with a treatment plan from your doctor
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Eat a healthy diet that's low in salt and trans fats and high in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise for two-and-a-half hours a week, even if it's a few brisk walks a day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
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