Live in New Mexico? You are more likely to be affected by heart disease.
New Mexico and the Southeastern part of the United States rose to the top of the list of states that have more people living with heart disease than any other part of the country, according to the Global Burden of Cardiovascular Disease Collaboration and the American Medical Association.
The overall news is good since, over the past 25 years, the United States has seen a decline in the number of people with heart disease. But in certain parts of the country, there is a rise, and researchers believe that the dominating factor in this rise is what we eat.
This study, which was just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked back at heart disease in all 50 states from 1990 to 2016.
For the study, heart disease included anyone with a heart attack, any type of stroke, and the most common form of unusual heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation. The relationship between geography and heart disease sometimes makes sense -- it's not a surprise that Mississippi, famous for its fried catfish and mudpies, infamous for its poverty and few medical resources, had the most heart disease in the country. Not far behind are other states from the Gulf Coast to West Virginia -- as well as two outlier states, New Mexico and Alaska.
Which states had the least heart disease?
Minnesota had the least heart disease -- in addition to many states in the Northeast and Northwest.
Ischemic heart attacks -- caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart -- are the most common type of heart disease in every state, and overall in the United States, which has not changed in 25 years.
But other things have changed -- obesity has risen from 11 percent to 29 percent, which contributes to the problem. The number of people smoking has been cut by 50 percent -- from 30 percent to 15 percent -- largely due to government implemented programs encouraging people to quit.
Geographically, we’re left with questions: What is causing a concentration of sicker people in certain parts of the country? Is it migration to warmer weather? Is it a cost of living differences? Is it access to certain types of foods or better medical care?
We aren’t sure. But heart disease remains a massive burden to these areas and for those who are living with it, it is a major cause of declining quality of life.
Our challenge now is to focus on educating these states on a heart-healthy diet, exercise, and other ways to prevent heart disease in order to bring them up to par with the rest of the country.
Dr. Roshini Malaney is a cardiology fellow at Stony Brook University Hospital working with the ABC News Medical Unit.