Tens of Millions in U.S. Live Too Far From Emergency Heart Centers

Photo courtesy of AED Consulting

Photo courtesy of AED Consulting

Every year, more than 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack or stroke and 2,200 people in this country die every day from cardiovascular disease. While both are scary statistics, what’s even more troubling is the fact that 1 in 6 Americans live too far away from a lifesaving heart center, according to a recent story by Robert Preidt in U.S. News & World Report.

In the article, Preidt cites a recent study in the journal Health Services Research, which analyzed the driving times of 306 million people to reach the closest angioplasty centers across the U.S. In all, there are 1,700 of this type of center in the country.

What researchers found is that the median time to an angioplasty center was 33 minutes. However, the median travel time for more than 16 percent of the population – about 50 million people – was 81 minutes. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend that it should not take longer than 120 minutes “from the time a heart attack patient has first contact with medical help to the inflation of the balloon in a blocked artery.” Longer travel times therefore, can lead to worse outcomes for millions of patients.

Rural residents were more likely to have longer travel times. Additionally, the poor and Hispanic Americans in both cities and rural areas were found to be more likely to have poorer access to angioplasty centers. While overall access has improved greatly from 2000 to 2011, the study says improved access is still needed for 1 in 6 Americans.

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