As the leading cause of death for men and women throughout all racial and ethnic groups in Louisiana and the United States, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are receiving unprecedented national attention. The United Health Foundation’s 2007 report indicates that Louisiana ranks 42nd in the nation for cardiovascular deaths with 349.6 deaths per 100,000 population.
Nearly 15,000 Louisiana residents died from CVDs in 2002, accounting for 35 percent of all deaths that year. Such high instances cannot be ignored, and public health officials are looking at victims’ lifestyle choices for answers.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is well known as a major risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. According to the 2004 BRFSS Survey , 30.5 percent of Louisiana citizens suffer from high blood pressure. Sufferers can effectively control this condition by exercising, managing their weight and taking medication.
Elevated cholesterol is another serious risk factor for CVDs, and is one of the strongest risk factors associated with coronary heart disease. Cholesterol can accumulate on the arterial walls, thus building plaque and restricting blood flow. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as the “bad cholesterol”, clogs the arteries leading to the heart and increases the risk for heart disease. In general, lowering high total blood cholesterol levels can decrease the likelihood of heart disease-related death.
The 2005 Louisiana Health Report Card noted that in 2004, 28.5 percent of Louisiana adults age 35 and older had not checked their blood cholesterol level in the past five years. Almost one-third of those who had previously been checked reported high cholesterol levels.
Clearly lifestyle choices play a huge role in determining one’s risk level for contracting cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown eating five or more servings of fruits or vegetables a day can help prevent heart disease, a dietary choice 84 percent of Louisiana citizens reported they failed to make in 2003, as noted by the 2005 Louisiana Health Report Card .
Choosing to alter your diet to include healthier choices and engage in more physical activity are effective preventative measures. For more information on cardiovascular diseases visit the American Heart Association .