While death rates from heart disease have dropped dramatically overall, rates of improvement have varied markedly by geography, resulting in greater disparities among U.S. counties, according to a study in the journal Circulation. Notably, the decline in coronary death rates has been far greater in most parts of the Northeast than in most Southern states. As a result, the “geographic inequality” in heart disease mortality among U.S. counties has nearly doubled.
The CDC researchers examined county-level rates of death due to heart disease in successive two-year intervals beginning in 1973 and ending in 2010. In addition to slower rates of decline in heart-disease deaths across the South, the researchers observed a “significant shift” in where counties with the highest heart disease mortality were concentrated—from the Northeast in the 1970s to the Deep South today.
“The sweeping geographic changes in heart disease mortality observed over a relatively short period of time, with a shift of high-rate counties from the Northeast to the Deep South, suggest that systematic changes may have occurred in a variety of biomedical, behavioral, and socioenvironmental factors,” the CDC researchers concluded.
Also see The Social Dynamics of Health.