New Data Show Striking Disparities in Early Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke

One in six deaths due to heart disease and stroke occurs among adults before the age of 65

Black adults are three times as likely to die prematurely from stroke as Whites, a finding more pronounced in Black women

Hypertension and smoking are key risk factors for premature death from heart disease and stroke

November 20, 2017 – The Health Department today published an Epi Data Brief titled “Premature Heart Disease and Stroke Deaths among Adults in New York City,” which highlights disparities in heart disease and stroke – two diseases that account for 24 percent of all premature deaths (death before age 65) among adults in New York City. Early death from heart disease is twice as likely in very high-poverty neighborhoods as in lower-poverty neighborhoods; Black women are 2.4 times as likely to die from heart disease as White women and 5.6 times as likely as Asian/Pacific Islander women; and Black adults have more than three times the early death rate from stroke compared to Whites and nearly two times the rate compared to Latinos. The new data are part of the City’s efforts to study and address hypertension, a leading risk factor of heart attack and stroke and a main contributor of premature death. Under its OneNYC plan, the City has committed to reducing the premature death rate by 25 percent by 2040. In 2015, the City launched Take Care New York 2020 – a collaborative effort with community partners to address inequities in health outcomes and neighborhood conditions throughout the five boroughs. 

Premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented by reducing risk factors, including uncontrolled high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – and smoking. In 2016, one in four adult New Yorkers – 1.8 million adults – reported having been told they have high blood pressure by a health care provider, making controlling high blood pressure critical in improving the health of New Yorkers. This number is expected to increase based on new guidelines released last week from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, which have lowered the threshold for diagnosis (among other updates). Based upon new diagnostic criteria set forth in the 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults, the percentage of adults in the United States meeting the definition of hypertension is 46 percent, amounting to 103.3 million adults. As with the previous diagnostic criteria, certain racial and ethnic groups have higher prevalence. In the US, an estimated 55 percent of Non-Hispanic Black adults meet the new definition for hypertension compared to 47 percent of Non-Hispanic White adults, 37 percent of Non-Hispanic Asian adults, and 35 percent of Hispanic adults.

 “Early death from heart disease and stroke is unevenly distributed across our city,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This report clearly demonstrates the need for enhanced attention to the leading contributors of premature death, including uncontrolled blood pressure and smoking. We look forward to working with providers on this important health issue, and encourage New Yorkers to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.”

“Heart attack and stroke are responsible for more deaths than any other cause in New York City. Early deaths from these diseases are particularly devastating because they’re largely preventable,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Sonia Angell. “The newly released clinical hypertension guidelines further underscore the necessity of addressing uncontrolled blood pressure across NYC. The first thing everyone should do now is know your blood pressure and learn how you can control it.  Get your blood pressure checked today at your doctor’s office or local pharmacy.”

“Smoking, unhealthy diets and stress all lead to stroke and heart disease. As a legislator, I’ve made it a focus in Albany to combat obesity and to ensure that New Yorkers eat a healthy diet. We can prevent these diseases, but it’s up to each one of us to make the changes in our lifestyles to live healthy lives,” said Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.

"The Health Department’s new epi-brief confirms the persistence of health disparities, such as hypertension and increased risk of heart disease and stroke, which negatively affect African-Americans and people living in communities with higher poverty rates. This data is critical to informing the Health Department's work in concert with health care providers to promote effective policies and programs to address health disparities,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health."

Highlights from the new Health Department Epi Data Brief

  • In 2011-2015, Black adults had a premature death rate due to heart disease that was 1.8 times that of White adults, 2.1 times that of Latino adults and 3.8 times that of Asian Pacific Islander adults. This disparity was more pronounced in women, with Black women having 2.4 times the rate of White women and 5.6 times the rate of Asian/Pacific Islander women.
  • The same pattern of disparity was observed for premature stroke death, with Black adults having a rate of premature death due to stroke that was 3.2 that of White adults, 1.8 times that of Latino adults and 2.4 times that of Asian Pacific Islander adults. However, for Black women the rate was 3.5 times the rate of White women and 2.8 times that of Asian/Pacific Islander women.
  • In 2011-2015, the rate of premature death due to heart disease in adults living in very high-poverty neighborhoods was more than twice the rate in low-poverty neighborhoods. For premature stroke death, the rate of adults living in very high-poverty neighborhoods was greater than three times that of low-poverty neighborhoods.
  • The rate of premature death due to heart disease decreased by 24 percent from 2001 to 2015 among New York City adults. Greater reductions in the rate of premature death due to heart disease were seen in women than in men (31 percent versus 21 percent).
  • Rates of premature death due to stroke have decreased 25 percent from 2001 to 2015, with substantial reductions among White, Black and Latino adults (30 percent, 31 percent and 24 percent, respectively). Greater reductions in the rates were seen in women as compared to men (34 percent versus 16 percent), and adults living in low-poverty neighborhoods compared with very high-poverty neighborhoods (35 percent versus 18 percent).

To prevent heart disease and stroke and to maintain a healthy blood pressure, New Yorkers should quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet low in salt, and get regular physical activity. New Yorkers should get their blood pressure checked regularly at a doctor’s office or local pharmacy. For more information, call 311 or visit and search “High Blood Pressure.”  Resources on preventing heart disease can be found by visiting and searching “Heart Disease.”

About Take Care New York

Take Care New York 2020 is the Health Department’s blueprint for a healthier life for everyone. With TCNY 2020, the Health Department is working together with community residents and partners to identify their most important health priorities and to improve the health of their neighborhoods. For more information about Take Care New York 2020, visit

About OneNYC

The goal of OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just City is to ensure that all New Yorkers live a long and healthy life. Premature death is closely tied to poverty, which in New York City correlates with communities of color that have long undergone structural and historical oppression. Under the OneNYC plan, the City has committed to reducing the premature mortality rate by 25 percent by 2040.



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