Heart Disease Still Tennessee's Top Cause of Death

Wednesday, February 08, 2017 | 02:26pm

Lifestyle Changes Can Save Lives

NASHVILLE – While matters of the heart are top of mind near Valentine’s Day, more Tennesseans should think about them all year long to ensure healthier, longer lives. Tennessee Department of Health data show heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the state, while stroke rated fifth in claiming lives.

“There are three significant ways to improve heart health and they are all within reach of most Tennesseans,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “Increasing physical activity, not using tobacco and eating healthier foods in appropriate portions can help you avoid heart conditions and stroke. Those who make these choices are more likely to live longer and can be healthier to enjoy life to its fullest.”

In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, heart disease claimed the lives of 15,674 Tennesseans, which is nearly 24 percent of all deaths in the state that year. In 2014, Tennessee had the seventh highest heart disease rate and the third-highest age-adjusted stroke rate in the nation.

TDH recommends the following measures for good heart health:

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking significantly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Call the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free individualized coaching by phone or online to help you stop smoking.
  • Know your numbers. High blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes can lead to heart disease. Ask your health care professional if you are at risk and how often you should be screened for these risk factors.
  • The food you eat has a major impact on heart health. Vegetables, fruits, lean meat and whole grains are important for a heart-healthy living.
  • Do things you love for exercise. While a workout in a well-equipped gym can be helpful, so can walking, dancing, swimming, hiking and other activities that make you move with a smile on your face.
  • Find healthy ways to relieve stress. If you tend to smoke or eat rich foods when stressed, think about other things you can do to bring comfort or reward yourself. A walk with a friend or pet? Sugar-free gum? Exploring a path you haven’t been on before? Buying something you like that has nothing to do with food or tobacco? With all the money you save not buying tobacco products, you may find yourself able to afford other items you want or need.    

“No two people are alike, so your risks of heart disease and other conditions associated with heart heath can be very different from your friends’,” said TDH Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Michael Warren, MD, MPH. “Your health care provider, through regular physical exams, can keep you informed of your heart health and help you manage conditions that can impact the quality and length of your life. One of my greatest pleasures as a physician is seeing someone become healthier by making a few changes to his or her lifestyle.”

TDH data show the significant burden of heart disease and stroke in Tennessee.

  • The age-adjusted death rates for both heart disease and stroke were higher among black Tennesseans than among white Tennesseans in 2015:  Heart Disease: 237.5 per 100,000 persons for blacks and 200.7 per 100,000 persons for whites; Stroke: 63.7 per 100,000 for blacks and 43.1 per 100,000 for whites. 
  • Heart disease age-adjusted death rates in Tennessee were higher among men than among women in 2015:  255.0 per 100,000 for men and 166.9 per 100,000 for women. 
  • Stroke age-adjusted death rates in 2015 were equal for both men and women:  45.3 per 100,000.   
  • In 2014, there were 73,397 Tennesseans hospitalized for a primary diagnosis of heart disease.
  • Inpatient charges associated with diseases of the heart were $4 billion in 2014.

February is American Heart Month. For additional information about heart health, visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org/HEARTORG/.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.