SALT LAKE CITY — Cardiovascular disease continues to kill more than 3,500 Utahns every year, making it the leading cause of death in the state for the past century.
The Utah Department of Health released the 2012 report “Impact of Heart Disease and Stroke in Utah” this week. It shows that between 2006 and 2012, cardiovascular disease killed 19,558 Utahns, or approximately 11 people every day. In 2009, Utah adults had significantly more heart attacks, strokes and coronary heart disease than all Americans combined. In addition, in 2008, hospitalization costs for heart disease and stroke alone were $573 million, with an average cost of $33,000 per hospitalization.
The report stresses that heart attack and stroke risk factors, especially uncontrolled high blood pressure and high cholesterol are common and dangerous.
“Nearly half of Utah adults have either high blood pressure or high cholesterol. We hope this new information will help everyone understand the real magnitude and burden of cardiovascular disease in our state,” said UDOH Heart Disease and Stroke Program manager Nicole Bissonette.
In 2009, Utah residents 18 and older experienced 2,797 hospitalizations for stroke, which is the seventh-most expensive cause of hospitalization, according to the report.
In addition, Utahns are not getting to the hospital quickly enough to be eligible for tissue plasminogen activator, a protein that can be administered during an ischemic stroke to dissolve a blood clot.
Among Utah hospitals participating in a stroke quality-improvement program in 2010, only two-thirds of stroke patients arrived by ambulance and only 45 percent arrived within the critical three hours of symptom onset.
Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot obstructs blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in part of the brain breaks open.
So far this year, Lakeview Hospital has treated 92 patients with stroke. Last year, the hospital treated 170 patients. McKay-Dee Hospital has seen 111 stroke encounters between January and the end of June. Last year, 257 strokes were treated. Davis Hospital and Medical Center has seen a decrease in the number of stroke patients seen in the emergency department, but an increase in the number of patients with heart failure.
The report also shows that most cardiovascular disease deaths are from coronary heart disease, a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries.
Many people mistakenly think of heart attack and stroke as a condition that affects older people. However, a large number of young people experience both. In the U.S., more than 150,000 people younger than 65 die from heart attacks and strokes.
Illness and deaths resulting from cardiovascular problems can be reduced and even prevented through simple lifestyle changes. The UDOH suggests having your blood pressure checked regularly, even if you are taking medication to treat it.
Exercise more. The CDC recommends exercising at least 150 minutes every week.
Eat more fruits and vegetables and less canned and boxed foods, which can be high in sodium. Keep your cholesterol levels in check through regular screenings and treatment.