Fall in US heart deaths leaves middle-aged behind

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WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) Death rates from heart disease have fallen sharply among older Americans but have virtually stalled for young and middle-aged adults, researchers reported.

Lifestyle is likely to blame, as younger adults pile on pounds, sit in front of computers and television sets and eat fatty foods, the researchers said.

''This should be regarded as a wake-up call for everyone interested in heart disease and heart health,'' said Dr. Philip Greenland of Northwestern University in Chicago, who wrote a commentary on the study.

''The take-home message is that heart disease has not gone away, continues to be a problem, and could become a greater problem if Americans fail to pay attention to known warning signs like overweight and obesity, and lack of exercise.'' Dr Earl Ford of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Simon Capewell of Britain's University of Liverpool found that the overall death rate from coronary disease between 1980 and 2002 fell by 52 percent in men and 49 percent in women over the age of 35.

But among men aged 35 to 54, the average annual heart disease death rate fell by 6.2 per cent in the 1980s, slowed to 2.3 per cent in the 1990s and leveled off with an annual decline of just 0.5 per cent between 2000 and 2002, they reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Among women aged 35 to 54, death rates from heart disease fell by 5.4 per cent in the 1980s and the decline slowed to 1.2 per cent in the 1990s, Ford and colleagues found.

Between 2000 and 2002, the death rate for these young and middle-aged women increased by an average of 1.5 percent per year.

''Young adults should take stock of their lifestyles,'' Ford said in a statement yesterday.

''If you're smoking, you should quit. If you're doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity per day, it's time to find ways to be more active. If you need to lose weight, you should burn more calories than you take in.'' Heart disease is the No 1 killer in the United States and most cases are preventable if people eat healthily and exercise properly.

REUTERS ARB RAI0848

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