Report: Twin Ports’ heart-attack rate tied for 8th-highestThe Twin Ports might not have much in common with Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Fla., but the two metropolitan areas share an unfortunate distinction in a recent health survey.
By: John Lundy, Associated Press
The Twin Ports might not have much in common with Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Fla., but the two metropolitan areas share an unfortunate distinction in a recent health survey:
They are tied for eighth-highest among all 189 metropolitan statistical areas in the country in the percentage of people reporting they’ve had heart attacks. The data — from 2012 — came from the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The heart-attack analysis was reported last week on the website Wall Street 24/7 and repeated in the newspaper USA Today.
But take the data with a grain of salt (just a grain, for good heart health), a state epidemiologist said.
To get its numbers, Gallup-Healthways surveyed 408 people in the Duluth-Superior area, said James M. Peacock, principal epidemiologist in the Department of Health’s heart disease and stroke prevention unit.
The report said 6.2 percent of those surveyed in the Twin Ports had suffered heart attacks. With a sample of 408 people, that means 24 or 25 reported having heart attacks, Peacock noted.
“That is under the threshold for what the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) considers even reportable survey data,” Peacock said.
A Duluth cardiologist shared in Peacock’s skepticism.
“How they collected the data is huge,” said Dr. Nizar Saleh of Essentia Health St. Mary’s-Heart & Vascular Center. “One big problem we have in medicine is sample size.”
The CDC asked the same question in 2011 in its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Peacock said, but its survey encompassed almost 700 adults in the Twin Ports. The result: 31 people said they had had heart attacks, a rate of 3.4 percent. That matched the rate for the state as a whole.
To put it in context, Peacock cited 2010 data showing that the death rate from heart disease in the Duluth-Superior area was lower than the death rate in 36 states.
But in comparison with the rest of Minnesota, the Duluth area doesn’t fare quite as well, he said. St. Louis County ranked 73rd among the state’s 87 counties, and Carlton County 80th in deaths due to heart disease.
If our hearts aren’t as healthy as they could be, it may have something to do with how we eat, Saleh said.
“Our food is mostly northern European,” Saleh said. “A lot of cream and a lot of animal fat and less of vegetables and fruit. … If you go to the typical home, you’ll notice the food is not as healthy as someone in California who has fruits and vegetables all year round.”
The same goes, he said, for the typical restaurant.
“We are lucky in Duluth to have a few restaurants that serve healthy food, but the average restaurant does not have the healthiest food,” he said.
That could be related to income, Saleh said. He noted that the Gallup-Healthways data show the median income in the Twin Ports is $46,110, about $4,400 less than the U.S. median.
“Remember that healthy food is more expensive than junk food,” he said. “The poorer you are, the more likely you are to adhere to a less-healthy diet.”
Overall, Minnesota ranked third in the nation in the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, behind Hawaii and Colorado, and Wisconsin ranked 20th. The Twin Cities ranked 16th overall, in the top 20 percent of metropolitan areas; and the Twin Ports ranked 51st, in the top 40 percent.
Everyone in Minnesota does well in comparison with many other states, Peacock said.
“Every county in Minnesota has much lower heart-disease mortality … than every county in Mississippi, for example.”