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U.S. Government Should Track Heart Disease: Experts

Current data on nation's No. 1 killer is piecemeal, experts say

MONDAY, Dec. 18, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. government should track national rates of heart disease and stroke to help cut the incidence of these prime causes of deaths, say experts at the American Heart Association (AHA).

The group published the recommendation in a scientific statement in this week's issue of the AHA journal Circulation.

Currently, data on heart disease and stroke is gathered from various sources and published in the AHA's annual Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update.

"The American Heart Association has been doing a great job compiling this information from many and various resources, but there are many missing pieces, and it's not ideal to have a nongovernmental agency, with no authority to modify data collection, serving this role," statement lead author Dr. David C. Goff Jr., professor in the division of public health science and department of medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"We need a surveillance unit that can evaluate how data are collected and make changes if needed," Goff said.

A nationwide, systematic mechanism for tracking the incidence of heart disease and stroke would make it easier to use public health policy to tackle these major health issues.

The statement recommends that health care providers should be required to report heart disease and stroke, in much the same way as they report many infectious diseases.

"We believe that we know so much about how to prevent heart disease that, when it occurs, it represents a failure of the public health and medical systems that should be reported to the appropriate agency," Goff said.

He and his fellow statement authors also recommended several changes to current data collections systems:

  • Expand existing national surveys to include questions on risk factors for heart disease, stroke and other vascular diseases. This would include risk factors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking, and obesity.
  • Standardize data collection across existing surveys to eliminate duplication and make information easier to compare.
  • Add laboratory results on cholesterol levels and blood sugar control to information collected from physician visits.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers advice on how to keep your heart healthy.

SOURCES: American Heart Association, news release, Dec. 18, 2006
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