A recent ethnographic study titled “Heart Failure Incidence and Mortality in the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS)” investigated heart failure incidence, and post-heart failure survival, by race and sex among low-income adults in the southern parts of the United States.

Heart failure risk factors in the study included hypertension, diabetes, myocardial infarction, and obesity. The participants—27,078 white and black men and women enrolled during 2002 to 2009 in the SCCS—had no history of heart failure. Over a median follow-up of almost 5 ½ years, 4,341 participants were diagnosed with heart failure. Among these cases, 952 deaths occurred over a median follow-up of 2.3 years. Researchers ultimately concluded that heart failure in this population was higher for all race-sex groups than previously reported in other studies.

While this segment of the population, geographically located in the South, had a significantly high instance of heart failure, a number of other studies have indicated that heart disease burden has shifted to the Southern United States. Study findings published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation reveal that the highest death tolls have shifted to the Deep South over the past few decades.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed heart-related deaths across the United States and found that trends often vary by factors like gender, race, and location. In order to learn more about the geographic trends, researchers analyzed U.S. mortality statistics from 1973 to 2010, calculating mortality rates in two-year intervals and including heart-related deaths in adults 35 years or older.

By 2010, researchers found that the highest death rates were in Southern states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Researchers further noted that declines in heart disease mortality have been slowest in Southern states, compared to the rest of the country.

These findings highlight the need to address significant health disparities in the United States; the concentration of heart disease in the Southern United States is likely due to geographic and racial differences in heart disease prevention and treatment. In order to fully understand these geographic trends, it is critical to recognize the biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that influence them.

Learn more about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cardiovascular disease at our upcoming CMHC Regional Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The last session of the day will be “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Diagnosis and Treatment of HTN and HF in Primary Care.” 

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