This Heart Health Month, we look at the problem of heart disease – one of the most common causes of death in America. Consider that approximately 1.2 million people this year will suffer a heart attack – and as many as 50 percent of those will prove fatal.
When disease strikes the heart, cardiologists are the front line of defense for patients. But are there enough? A new report from Vitals shows that, across America, access to cardiologists is not equal.
New York has the highest ratio of cardiologists, with 1,893 cardiologists available to serve its 19 million residents – about 1 for every 10,000 residents. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida also have high numbers of cardiologists per capita.
On the other hand, Wyoming has only nine cardiologists statewide for 563,000 residents, or a per capita rate of about 1 cardiologist for every 63,000 residents. That means Wyoming residents have six times less access to cardiologists than New York residents. North Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho and Montana also have low per capita percentages for cardiologists based on their populations.
And while access to doctors isn’t consistent across America, neither is quality. Based on patient reported ratings, cardiologists in Arkansas and Rhode Island have near perfect ratings (4 out of 4 stars), while patients in Nevada harshly scored their heart doctors with an average rating under 3 (2.88).
The issue of quality and access will only magnify as healthcare undergoes major reform at a time when our population is rapidly aging, says Mitch Rothschild, CEO of Vitals.
“We all want to know where we can go and who we can trust,” says Rothschild. “But as 30 million new people enter our system under the Affordable Care Act, the process of finding a top-rated doctor is only going to get more complex.”
In the meantime, it’s best to practice prevention so your chance of needing a cardiologist is minimized. The best heart health advice says:
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid excess salt in the diet (or reduce the amount).
- Maintain a normal level of sugar (for diabetics).
- Follow a healthy heart diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Avoid trans fat.
- Exercise regularly.
- Strive to maintain a healthy weight for your specific height and body frame.
Is there a shortage of cardiologists in your area? Tell us about it below.