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Heart disease deaths more among New Yorkers



19th August, 2005: Health experts in the US are trying miserably to fix a cause as heart disease related deaths are becoming increasingly high among those live in New York City and its suburbs.

Reports indicate deaths from heart disease are more than 300 per 100,000, compared with a national average of 253 in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens and on Staten Island, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control. Manhattan's is lower, about average. The rates were calculated for 1999 through 2002 and adjusted for age.

New York State has had one of the country's highest rates of heart disease deaths for many years. A study conducted at the State University at Albany in 1994, found that communities in all areas of New York State have a substantially increased risk of death. In their efforts to solve the riddle of the higher than national average occurrence of heart disease, the New York City health department and the National Institutes of Health are conducting extensive studies to better assess poorly measured factors like stress, blood pressure and cholesterol in people in the New York area.

Smoking and eating a high-fat diet are considered the clearest predictors of heart disease. But according to the Centers for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual national survey, people in the New York area, whether the city or suburbs, smoke less than average and are less likely to be obese than those in the rest of the country. They may not get as much exercise, however, and they may also have higher cholesterol levels.

Several experts point their fingers to stress as the major culprit. It is widely believed that life in New York is more difficult, and stress has been linked to higher heart disease mortality. A 1999 study showed that people were more likely to die of a heart attack in New York City than elsewhere. The authors suggested stress could play a role because the excess death rate affected both visitors and residents; they found no other explanation. But stress is difficult to measure, and there is no proof that life is more stressful in and around New York, despite the popular notions.

Researches also suggest that heart disease death rates are higher in places with big gaps between the rich and the poor. Metropolitan areas with less income inequality - Seattle, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City - have lower heart disease death rates. New York's metropolitan area ranks at the top in income inequality.
Suburban counties show a similar pattern of death from heart disease that does not correspond with wealth or education. Nassau and Suffolk Counties have nearly 300 deaths per 100,000, far higher than most other wealthy areas. Suburban counties outside Washington are under 200.
Among 105 metropolitan areas surveyed, Nassau-Suffolk was eighth worst in the number of people at risk because of high cholesterol. The New York metropolitan area, which includes the city along with Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties and northern New Jersey, was the 28th worst. Two New Jersey metropolitan subdivisions - four counties around Edison and six counties from Newark west - also ranked above average in risk because of high cholesterol and lack of exercise. Connecticut metropolitan areas tended to be below average in risks.

A new study financed by the National Institutes of Health is currently surveying hundreds of volunteers in New York and New Jersey as part of an experiment involving 30,000 people nationwide. Their blood pressure and cholesterol will be tested, and they will be asked a battery of questions about stress. The city's health department is also testing the blood pressure and cholesterol of 2,000 randomly selected volunteers. The survey began in 2004; results may begin to come in later this year.

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