Little Rock - A promising new program will launch this month that is designed to combat two of the leading causes of death in Arkansas -- heart disease and stroke. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has access to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program that will allow public health professionals and others to find the areas of the state where heart disease and stroke are most common. Called the Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke, the program uses maps to better identify specific problems at the local level.

Users will be able to create county maps that will show heart disease and stroke cases by gender, race/ethnicity and age groups. It will also be possible to overlay maps with congressional boundaries and locations of health care facilities. In addition, maps will be available showing the food environment, county-level poverty, education, access to health care and other social factors.

According to Paul K. Halverson, DrPH, state health officer and ADH director, “This is a very powerful tool -- one that enhances our ability to bring all this information together. It means that we can now create more effective ways to fight heart disease and stroke across Arkansas.”

You can explore the Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke program by accessing the following web link:

The launch of the Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke coincides with High Blood Pressure Education Month and National Stroke Awareness Month, both of which are observed during May. This is a time to learn ways to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke by promoting small changes for a healthier lifestyle.

High blood pressure is sometimes called a “silent killer” because it often does not have any signs or symptoms. For this reason, many people with high blood pressure -- about one in four in Arkansas -- do not even realize they have it. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly and to take steps to lower blood pressure if it reaches unsafe levels.

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Although many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only older adults, strokes can and do occur in people of all ages. In fact, nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than age 65.

“Arkansas had the highest stroke death rate in the nation for five of the last 10 years,” said Dr. Namvar Zohoori, chair of Arkansas’s Acute Stroke Care Task Force (ASCTF). “With the development of programs such as UAMS’s Arkansas SAVES (stroke telemedicine) and the ASTCF-supported Stroke Registry at the Arkansas Department of Health, we are taking steps to reduce the burden of this disease on our state.”

Among risk factors for stroke, a history of uncontrolled hypertension has the strongest association with stroke, increasing the risk three-fold. Data from the Arkansas Cardiovascular Health Examination Survey (ARCHES) indicates that among Arkansas adults, about 48 percent (995,000) have high blood pressure and only 30 percent with hypertension have it controlled. The ADH is working to develop intervention programs to increase the number of adults with controlled hypertension.

To learn more about protecting yourself and your loved ones from high blood pressure and stroke, visit the ADH website, or, a national initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over five years.

Contact: Office of HealthCommunications and Marketing
Ed Barham, 501-280-4147