Heart dis­ease bat­ters older men, though statis­tics are hazy

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By W. Gardner Selby wgselby@states­man.com

Gor­don Quan, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for Har­ris County judge, sent an e-mail blast last month not­ing that he had re­cently un­der­gone car­diac by­pass surgery.

“Like many, I had no signs of heart dis­ease,” his June 30 e-mail said. “For­tu­nately, my wife had in­sisted that I have a com­plete ex­am­i­na­tion in March which de­tected grow­ing block­age in my ar­ter­ies. It is es­ti­mated by some car­di­ol­o­gists that 70 per­cent of all males over 50 have some form of heart dis­ease. Un­for­tu­nately, we have lost many too soon due to un­treated heart dis­ease.”

Seven in 10 men older than 50 have heart dis­ease? We — OK, I — ur­gently de­sired backup.

Quan told us he saw the statis­tic while look­ing through in­for­ma­tion posted on­line by the Pre­ven­tive Medicine Re­search In­sti­tute, which says it per­forms sci­en­tific re­search on the ef­fects of diet and life­style choices on health and dis­ease. The Cal­i­for­nia-based in­sti­tute was founded by Dean Or­nish, a physi­cian who has long stud­ied the ef­fects of life­style changes on health.

We didn’t find a sim­i­lar state­ment on the in­sti­tute’s site and didn’t hear back from its on­line con­tact.

Sep­a­rately, we reached the Hous­ton-based Texas Heart In­sti­tute, whose spokesman for­warded the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion’s 2010 update of na­tional heart dis­ease and stroke statis­tics. It has a chart in­di­cat­ing nearly 40 per­cent of men and women aged 40 to 59 have some kind of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, while 74 per­cent of men and 73 per­cent of women aged 60 to 79 fit into that un-well­ness field. All told, the update says, 81.1 mil­lion Amer­i­cans (or 1 in 3 res­i­dents) have one or more types of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, 38.1 mil­lion of them be­ing 60 or older.

But what about — ahem — men be­tween 50 and 60? Frank Michel, the in­sti­tute’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs, agreed the chart didn’t speak di­rectly to them.

“The preva­lence of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease in one form or an­other is some­where in be­tween 40 per­cent and 70 per­cent for males aged 50 and over, and it rises above 70 per­cent by the time they reach age 60,” Michel said in an e-mail.

In Austin, we sought per­spec­tive from Glen Huschka, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the South Cen­tral Af­fil­i­ate of the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion.

Huschka ini­tially noted that car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease refers to a “broad range of con­di­tions in­clud­ing coro­nary heart dis­ease, heart fail­ure, stroke and high blood pres­sure,” which he said seems to fit with Quan’s state­ment.

Huschka said in an e-mail that if the can­di­date had said men over 50 are “at risk of de­vel­op­ing” heart dis­ease, that would be a slam dunk. Huschka’s point: More than 71 per­cent of men over age 20 are con­sid­ered over­weight or obese, a ma­jor risk fac­tor.

Huschka floated our ques­tion to Melanie Spencer, as­so­ci­ate sci­ence and medicine ad­viser with the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion’s Dal­las­based Na­tional Cen­ter. She shared in­for­ma­tion from the Na­tional Health and Nutrition Ex­am­i­na­tion Sur­vey taken by the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Statis­tics from 2003 through 2006. Ac- cord­ing to the sur­vey, the preva­lence of heart dis­ease among U.S. men 50 and older was about 19 per­cent — if one lim­its the def­i­ni­tion of coro­nary heart dis­ease to peo­ple with heart attacks, angina and heart fail­ure. Un­der a broader def­i­ni­tion that in­cludes stroke and hy­per­ten­sion, 61 per­cent of men 50 and older were di­ag­nosed as hav­ing heart-re­lated dif­fi­cul­ties.

Huschka told us in an e-mail that such es­ti­mates wouldn’t in­clude men with un­di­ag­nosed heart dis­ease, mean­ing the preva­lence of heart dis­ease among men 50 and older is prob­a­bly higher. That sounds be­liev­able. All told, how­ever, the statis­tics don’t con­firm Quan’s state­ment that 70 per­cent of men older than 50 have a form of heart dis­ease, though we found num­bers that were close. We rate his state­ment Half True.

Gor­don Quan State­ment: ‘It is es­ti­mated by some car­di­ol­o­gists that 70 per­cent of all males over 50 have some form of heart dis­ease.’

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