Special Report

Cities With the Highest Risk of Heart Attack

Thomas C. Frohlich, Evan Comen

Downtown Lakeland, Florida
Source: Thinkstock

12. Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 6.4%
> Obesity rate: 33.6%
> Smoking rate: 17.2%
> Median household income: $44,061

By many measures of cardiovascular health, residents of the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area are at a relatively high risk of heart attack. More than one in three adults are obese, which can cause fatal strain on the heart. An estimated 6.4% of adults have experienced a heart attack, the 12th largest share of any metropolitan areas surveyed by Gallup.

Americans 65 and older are more than twice as likely to experience a heart attack than younger Americans. Nearly one in five Lakeland-Winter Haven residents are 65 and over, one of the highest concentrations nationwide. Additionally, 15.3% of adults in the metro area have diabetes, close to the largest share in the country. According to the American Heart Association, at least 68% of Americans with diabetes over 65 die of heart disease.

Burlington, Vermont
Source: Thinkstock

11. Burlington-South Burlington, VT
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 6.5%
> Obesity rate: 25.5%
> Smoking rate: 13.4%
> Median household income: $66,807

By several measures, Burlington is unique on this list. Notably, unlike most areas with a high incidence of heart attack, relatively few Burlington residents rate their own health poorly. Less than 10% of people report fair or poor health, the only city on this list with such a low share and one of the lowest such percentages of U.S. cities.

The percentage of adults in the metro area who report excessive drinking, at 23%, is nearly the highest nationwide. While most of the cities with the highest incidence of heart attack report relatively low excessive drinking, the higher level of drinking in Burlington may partially explain heart problems among some city residents.

City of Kingsport, Tennessee At Night
Source: Thinkstock

10. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 6.8%
> Obesity rate: 31.9%
> Smoking rate: 22.6%
> Median household income: $41,206

Less than two in three Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol residents have access to opportunities for physical activity. While the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week or more, 34% of Kingsport adults report engaging in no physical activity whatsoever, the sixth highest inactivity rate in the country. Regular exercise can help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which help lower the risk of heart attack. In Kingsport, 40.8% of adults have high blood pressure, and 32.4% have high cholesterol, each close to the highest shares among major U.S. metro areas.