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REPORT: Southeastern Oklahoma counties have high rates of heart disease


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A cluster of counties in southeastern Oklahoma has some of the highest rates of heart disease in the nation, a new report shows.

Oklahoma has 15 counties with heart disease death rates between 828 and 887 per 100,000 people, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and West Virginia University. The national average is 675.

``Men and Heart Disease: An Atlas of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mortality'' showed that the counties with the highest heart disease death rates for men are primarily in the South, with high concentrations around Appalachia and the Ohio-Mississippi River Valley.

In Oklahoma, 13 of the 15 counties cited are in southeastern sections of the state. The report showed high rates in Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Hughes, Johnston, Latimer, Le Flore, McIntosh, Okfuskee, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pushmataha and Seminole counties. The report also showed extremely high rates in Custer and Washita counties in western Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's statewide rate of 767 deaths per 100,000 men places it among the five worst states for such deaths. Mike Crutcher, state epidemiologist attributes the poor heart health to bad lifestyle choices.

``Smoking rates in Oklahoma are higher than most states,'' Crutcher said. ``If you smoke, you increase your risk of heart disease.''

Other factors include an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. Those behaviors, combined with high blood pressure and obesity can contribute to heart disease, Crutcher said.

The concentration of higher death rates in some Oklahoma counties is likely related to relatively lower economic status, he added. Southeastern Oklahoma tends to have higher poverty and unemployment rates.

The report also showed that race is a factor in men's risk of heart disease. Nationally, black men die from heart disease at greater rates than white men. Asian men fared best in all states with an average death rate of 372 deaths per 100,000.

The report showed Hawaii has the nation's lowest overall heart disease death rate with 482 deaths per 100,000 men. Mississippi earned the worst ranking with a rate of 878 deaths per 100,000.

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