The States With the Most Heart Disease

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5. Alabama
> Adults with cardiovascular disease: 9.8% (tied with Tennessee)
> Adults who’ve had heart attack: 4.6% (8th highest)
> Population: 4,874,747

In Alabama, 4.9% of adults have had a stroke, the second highest share of all states and well above the 3.0% of adults nationwide. The state also has a relatively high share of adults living with diabetes. Diabetes may increase the risk of developing heart disease because diabetics are more likely to develop high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and they tend to be less physically active — all factors that elevate the risk of heart disease. Alabama has among the highest adult obesity and inactivity rates, both of which, too, can increase the risk of heart disease.

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4. Tennessee
> Adults with cardiovascular disease: 9.8%
> Adults who’ve had heart attack: 5.3% (4th highest)
> Population: 6,715,984

Diabetes, sedentary lifestyles, obesity, and smoking — all major risk factors for heart disease — are very common among adults in Tennessee. About 13.1% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, the sixth highest rate in the country; 30.1% don’t exercise, the third highest share in the country, compared to a national average of 23.0%; and 32.4% of adults are obese, the eighth highest share in the United States.

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3. Mississippi
> Adults with cardiovascular disease: 10.1%
> Adults who’ve had heart attack: 5.1% (5th highest)
> Population: 2,984,100

More than one in 10 adults in Mississippi are living with cardiovascular disease, the third highest share of all states. The state has a relatively high adult smoking rate and the second highest obesity rate of all states. In addition, the state has relatively few doctors, another factor that may contribute to the state’s high heart disease rate. There are 53.2 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, the lowest concentration, compared to an average of 75.8 per 100,000 across the country. Poverty is another risk factor for heart disease, as those living in poverty tend to have less access to health care and healthy behaviors and are also more likely to smoke. This may help explain the high rate of heart disease in Mississippi.

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2. Kentucky
> Adults with cardiovascular disease: 10.6%
> Adults who’ve had heart attack: 5.8% (tied, the highest)
> Population: 4,454,189

Diabetes, obesity, lack of physical activity — all of these risk factors for cardiovascular disease are common in Kentucky. About 34.4% of adults do not exercise even over a month, the highest inactivity rate in the country and above the corresponding rate nationwide of 25.7%. In addition, Kentucky has the second highest share of adults smoking — smoking has been known to increase the risk of heart disease by damaging blood cells and the structure of the heart.

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1. West Virginia
> Adults with cardiovascular disease: 11.6%
> Adults who’ve had heart attack: 5.8% (the highest)
> Population: 1,815,857

In West Virginia, 11.6% of adult have heart disease, the highest share of all states. Many of the major risk factors of heart disease are very common in West Virginia. The state has the third highest share of adults with high blood pressure, the largest share of adults with high cholesterol, the highest share of smokers, as well as the highest obesity rate among adults.

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