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U.S. Heart Disease Death Rates Falling
Date:12/18/2007

But cardiovascular disease remains America's No. 1 killer, AHA says

TUESDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- While cardiovascular disease (CVD) death rates in the United States are declining, the illness is still the leading cause of death in the nation, according to the American Heart Association.

Controlling heart disease risk factors remains a major challenge for many people, according to the American Heart Association's Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics -- 2008 Update, published online Dec. 17 in the journal Circulation.

CVD -- which includes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure and several other conditions -- has been the leading cause of death in the United States every year since 1900, with the exception of 1918, when there was a worldwide flu pandemic, the AHA noted.

In 2004, the most recent year for which final data was available, the age-adjusted CVD death rate in the United States was 288 people per 100,000, compared with 307.7 per 100,000 in 2003, the report said. In 2004, CVD was listed as the underlying cause of death in 869,724 deaths, compared to 911,163 deaths in 2003.

Cancer was the second leading cause of death, claiming 553,888 lives in 2004. When looked at separately from other cardiovascular diseases, stroke was the third leading cause of death, claiming 150,074 lives.

While CVD deaths appear to be decreasing, rates of many CVD risk factors are remaining the same or increasing, the report said. For example, rates of overweight and obesity in adults and in children have been rising for several decades. The report found that 66 percent of American adults are overweight, and 31.4 percent are obese. It also found that 17 percent of youngsters ages 12 to 19 are overweight, along with 17.5 percent of children ages 6 to 11, and 14 percent of children ages 2 to 5.

Poor dietary habits -- such as insufficient consumption of fruits and veget
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