Nav: Home

Study shows fewer American Indians getting heart disease

November 07, 2019

SEATTLE, Wash. - A first-of-its-kind study led by researchers at Washington State University shows that new cases of heart disease among American Indians in three U.S. regions have gone down.

Findings from the study--which looked for changes across a span of 25 years--also suggest that fewer Native men are dying from heart-disease-related events, such as heart attacks and strokes. American Indians and Alaska Natives make up just under 2 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 12 percent of all cases of heart disease--more than any other racial group.

"Our findings strongly suggest that delivering on our federal mandate to provide high-quality accessible health care to our Native people will reduce the health disparities seen in this population," said lead author Clemma Muller, a researcher with the WSU Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) and an assistant professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. "In other words, when we find people before they have the disease and we follow them and make sure they receive the treatment they need, we can prevent the disease."

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the team's study was based on data from 5,627 American Indians who participated in two long-running studies that looked at heart disease and related risk factors in Native people living in the Southwest and the Northern and Southern Great Plains. The Strong Heart Study enrolled participants from 1989 to 1990. The Strong Heart Family Study recruited participants from the Strong Heart Study and their multi-generational relatives between 2000 and 2003, following each participant until 2013. Those who were determined to have heart disease or be at elevated risk for heart disease received treatment referrals.

Muller and her coauthors analyzed data for study participants who were between 30 and 85 years old during their last follow-up visit. They divided participants born within a decade of each other into cohorts and calculated the five-year risk that participants in each birth-year cohort might get heart disease or die from a heart-disease-related event, as well as the overall prevalence of heart disease within each cohort. To determine long-term trends, they compared five-year risks for people who were aged 45, 55, 65, and 75 at the conclusion of the study with risks for those who were the same age a generation earlier.

For all ages, the researchers saw fewer new disease cases in people who were born more recently. They also observed a drop in death rates from heart-disease-related events in men, but not in women. At the same time, overall prevalence of heart disease declined more in women.

"We expected that our results would show that things were getting better uniformly," Muller said. She suggested that heart disease prevalence continuing to be high in American Indian men while new cases and death rates are down reflects the fact that men are living longer with the disease, which pushes the prevalence for men up.

As for women, Muller said there are several possible explanations as to why they aren't seeing the same improvements in death rates from heart disease that men are. Overall, fewer women die from heart disease than men, so the team's analysis didn't include as many deaths in women.

"It's possible that women are in fact benefiting from lower mortality rates, but we just didn't have the statistical power to detect these improvements," she said.

She also pointed to the possibility that certain risk factors for heart disease--such as smoking--may be increasing at a higher rate in women than in men. Finally, she said that heart disease symptoms in women can be more subtle than those in men. As a consequence, women are less likely to seek care for acute events such as heart attacks.

"We need to more closely examine whether American Indian women and men are having different experiences with their health patterns and why so we can make sure improvements are experienced equally by both groups," Muller said.

The research team--which also included investigators from the University of Minnesota and the Strong Heart Study--plan to delve further into this issue in a future study. They are also planning a study to determine long-term changes in risk factors for heart disease--such as high blood pressure and elevated blood glucose levels--in the same population.
Funding for the study came from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an agency within the National Institutes of Health.

Washington State University

Related Heart Disease Articles:

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.
Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.
Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.
Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Women once considered low risk for heart disease show evidence of previous heart attack scars
Women who complain about chest pain often are reassured by their doctors that there is no reason to worry because their angiograms show that the women don't have blockages in the major heart arteries, a primary cause of heart attacks in men.
Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Certain heart fat associated with higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.
More Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at