journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran

By Raif Karerat

WASHINGTON, DC—While distinct progress has been made in the ongoing quest to reduce the number of deaths related to heart disease in the U.S., preventable risk factors continue to account for half of all cardiovascular-influenced fatalities, according to new research led by Indian American Dr. Shivani Patel.

Patel’s team at the Hubert Department of Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health studied data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) national surveys from 2009 to 2010.

The goal was to determine the extent to which cardiovascular deaths could be lowered if all states reduced the top five modifiable risk factors for heart disease: elevated cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and smoking.

The results indicated if all the risk factors were completely eliminated, about half of the cardiovascular-related related deaths could be prevented. To offer a more realistic goal, Patel’s team also estimated the number of deaths that could be prevented if all states were to achieve the levels found in the five best-performing states for each risk factor within age and gender groups.

“States such as Utah, Colorado, and Vermont were consistently among the best performing states across age groups and for men and women,”  Patel told CBS News. “Almost seven percent of cardiovascular deaths in men aged 45 to 54 could be prevented if all states reduced their current smoking rates for that population to average smoking levels in the best performing states for that risk factor. About eight percent of cardiovascular deaths in women aged 55 to 64 could be prevented if hypertension rates were reduced to levels in the best performing states for that risk factor.”

“All states could benefit from more aggressive policies and programs to help reduce risk of death from heart disease,” Patel exclaimed to Medical Xpress.

The study’s complete findings can be found in the June edition of the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine.

This story originally appeared on The American Bazaar.