Appalachia's residents suffer higher rate of heart disease Report blames poverty, nutrition, lack of exercise


WASHINGTON -- Residents of Appalachia, one of the poorest areas of the United States, are more likely to die from heart disease than people living elsewhere, a new study by researchers at West Virginia University has found.

The authors of the 100-page report said a lack of medical facilities in the region and a lack of emphasis on nutrition and exercise contribute to a higher level of heart problems in Appalachia.

Elizabeth Barnett, an assistant professor at the West Virginia University school of medicine who led the study group, said researchers found that white Appalachians between ages 35 and 64 had a 15 percent to 20 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than white Americans living elsewhere. Although heart disease deaths declined nationally and in Appalachia, they declined less in Appalachia.

The study found that heart disease death rates among Appalachian blacks, who tend to live in urban areas, especially in Alabama and Mississippi, were closer to national averages.

Barnett said the sparsely populated communities common to Appalachia are less likely to have the recreational facilities and more healthful foods that are routinely available in more densely populated areas.

Barnett said researchers found the highest mortality rates in middle Appalachia -- central West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, western Virginia and northern Tennessee -- a region with high unemployment, low income and limited availability of medical care.

The report is scheduled to be published tomorrow in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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