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For Immediate Release:
July 28, 2005
For more information contact:
DHS Communications
(213) 240-8144 Pager: (213) 990-7107

More than One in Four Adults in Los Angeles County at Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke: Many Report Difficulty Accessing Needed Services

LOS ANGELES -- A report released by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services says that more than one in four adults in the county is at significant risk of heart disease and stroke. Heart disease and stroke (together referred to as cardiovascular disease) are the first and third leading causes of death in the county and are leading causes of chronic illness and disability. The medical and lost productivity costs associated with cardiovascular disease in the county are estimated to be $10-15 billion annually.

The 2002-03 Los Angeles County Health Survey collected data from a random sample of 8,167 adults in the county on five modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease: hypertension, diabetes, cigarette smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. The results indicate that at least 1.7 million adults in the county, or 28.8% of adults, have two or more of these risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This data is a minimum estimate since it is based on self-report and does not include high cholesterol. “The large number of adults in the county with multiple risk factors suggests that heart disease and stroke are likely to remain among the leading causes of premature death and disability over the next several decades without major prevention efforts,” said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer.

Data specifics The percentage with two or more risk factors varied significantly by race/ethnicity with the highest among African-Americans (44.3%), followed by Latinos (32.1%), Whites (25.1%), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (20.8%). The percentage with two or more risk factors was highest in the South Service Planning Area (SPA) (38.3%) and the Antelope Valley SPA (37.2%), and was lowest in the West SPA (19.2%).

In addition, the percentage with two or more risk factors was inversely related to education level and household income. For example, 39.0% of adults living below the federal poverty level (FPL) reported multiple risk factors compared to 23.6% among those living at or above 300% of the FPL. This pattern was present in each racial/ethnic group.

“Interventions to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors are needed at multiple levels,” said Dr. Fielding. “For example, efforts are needed in multiple sectors to increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Public education efforts of the health benefits of reducing cardiovascular disease risks are needed. Everyone can reduce their risk of heart disease by being physically active, eating health foods in moderation, avoiding smoking, and having regular medical check-ups.”

Among adults with two or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, 16% had not been to a health care provider in the past year, 18% reported having no health insurance, and 12% did not have a regular source of health care. Overall, 27% of adults with two or more cardiovascular disease risk factors reported difficulty accessing medical care when needed. Latinos with two or more risk factors were more likely to be uninsured (29%), not have a regular source of care (20%), and report difficulty accessing care (37%).

“There is also a need to expand access to high quality primary health care services, especially in low income adult populations where many lack health insurance and experience difficulty accessing health care,” said Dr. Fielding.

For a copy of the complete study, visit: lapublichealth.org/ha. Health survey background The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a periodic, population-based telephone survey that collects information on socio-demographic characteristics, health status, health behaviors and access to health services among adults and children in the County. The 2002-03 survey collected information on a random sample of more than 8,000 adults and nearly 6,000 children with interviews offered in six languages.

Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health and comprises more than 4,000 employees with an annual budget exceeding $600 million.