Poor Americans Likely to Miss Preventive Heart Screenings: Study

FRIDAY, May 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Low-income Americans are much less likely to be screened for heart disease or to receive counseling about controlling risk factors, a new study finds.

Heart health screenings -- such as regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks -- and counseling to improve diet, increase exercise or quit smoking play important roles in reducing heart disease risk.

Income has long been associated with heart disease risk, but the connection between income and heart disease preventive care is less well understood, according to the study presented Friday at a virtual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on nearly 33,000 American adults diagnosed with heart disease between 2006 and 2015, and more than 185,000 without heart disease.

Compared to those with high incomes, low-income Americans without heart disease were 58% less likely to have had their cholesterol checked within five years and 55% less likely to have had their blood pressure checked within the past two. Those with heart disease were 66% less likely to have had either check.

In the lowest-income group, people without heart disease were 64% less likely to have had their cholesterol and 59% less likely to have had their blood pressure checked. Those with heart disease were nearly 70% less likely to have had those checks.

Lead author Dr. Andi Shahu called the gap in preventive care "incredibly worrisome."

"Preventive care, including regular cholesterol screenings and blood pressure monitoring, are essential to reducing heart disease and stroke," he said in an AHA news release. Shahu is a resident physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

He added that problems are often magnified during times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

"The American people need to know these types of disparities cannot be fixed in the doctor's office alone," Shahu said. "They must be addressed using city-level, state-level or even nationwide interventions, and public health policies must align to support these interventions."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to a healthy heart.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 15, 2020

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