CHICAGO (Reuters) - About one in four U.S. deaths from heart disease could be avoided with better prevention efforts and treatment, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Tuesday.
As many as 200,000 Americans might have been spared an early death in 2010 from a heart attack or stroke if they had received screening and treatment for preventable causes of heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking, the report found.
Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States, accounting for nearly 800,000 deaths a year - about 30 percent of all U.S. deaths.
The report looked at preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke defined as those that occurred in people under age 75 that could have been prevented by more effective public health measures, lifestyle changes or medical care.
While the CDC has long tracked deaths from heart disease, it never previously issued a report estimating how many such deaths could be prevented.
In 2010, the states with the highest avoidable death rates were located primarily in the South, including Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Louisiana, the report stated. The states with the lowest rates were Minnesota, Utah, Colorado, Connecticut and New Hampshire, according to the report.
CDC officials said that the 2014 launch of key elements of the U.S. healthcare law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 could help reduce avoidable deaths. The law is intended to provide better access to treatment for millions of uninsured Americans and routine coverage for preventive screenings.
"Beginning in October, the health insurance marketplaces will provide a new way for people to get health insurance so more patients have access to quality health insurance and coverage beginning as early as January 2014," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told a conference call with reporters.
The new health insurance exchanges are expected to provide coverage for up to 7 million uninsured Americans next year, according to government estimates. The law faces ongoing opposition among Republicans in Congress who say it imposes a financial burden on consumers and state governments.
The rate of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke - those that could have been avoided by treating high blood pressure and cholesterol and by discouraging smoking - fell nearly 30 percent between 2001 and 2010, the report said.
There were widespread differences in rates by age, geographical region, race and gender, Frieden said.
"While those who are age 65 to 74 still have the greatest rate of heart attack and stroke, more than half of the preventable deaths - about six in 10 - happen in people under the age of 65," Frieden said.
Frieden said preventable deaths declined much more quickly in people aged 65 to 74, which "may well be because they have access to health insurance through their Medicare coverage," the U.S. health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
Men were more than twice as likely as women to die from heart disease and strokes that could have been prevented by treating high blood pressure and cholesterol and through smoking-prevention efforts, the report said. The rate of such deaths for U.S. men in 2010 was 83.7 per 100,000 in 2010 compared with 39.6 per 100,000 for women, the CDC said.
The report found blacks were twice as likely as whites to die from preventable heart disease and strokes. In 2010, the rate of avoidable deaths from heart disease and stroke in black men was about 80 percent higher than that of white men and black women.
Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Will Dunham