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Published: Tuesday, 5/20/2008

For women, it's heart-unfriendly Toledo; risk factors sink the area in a health ranking


Toledoans: We need to have a heart to heart.

A study has its finger on the pulse of the area's heart health - and women could be the ones in danger of missing a beat.

With bad marks for smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and other categories, Toledo has been ranked the fifth least heart-friendly midsize metro area for women nationwide - and the worst in Ohio.

While the area's cardiac health for women does benefit from the state's smoking ban, along with a good number of teaching hospitals, cardiologists, and hospital beds per capita, other factors related to preventing heart disease are not favorable, according to an American Heart Association study released this week.

Rates for smoking, obesity, and related problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol have historically been high in the Toledo area, said Dr. Ameer Kabour, section chief for cardiology at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

Area family doctors have improved preventive cardiac care in the last few years, Dr. Kabour said. But more needs to be done to help people quit smoking - and provide education about how severe a health problem be-ing obese is, he said.

"I don't think people are aware of the risks from obesity," Dr. Kabour said.

In Lucas County, 67 percent of women were overweight or obese, one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Among other risk factors, 52 percent of female Lucas County residents exercised less than three days a week, 30 percent were diagnosed with high blood pressure, 25 percent smoked, and 28 percent had high blood cholesterol, according to the most recent Lucas County Adult Health Assessment report.

The local American Heart Association chapter is stepping up its Go Red For Women movement, which has 150 volunteers educating women about preventing and treating heart problems, at such locations as health fairs, meetings, and other events, said Jan Motter, executive director.

The association wants to make sure the Toledo area's poor showing in the heart-friendly rankings isn't permanent, Ms. Motter said. Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable, she said.

"While it's a concern for us in the association and should be a concern for us in the community, the American Heart Association is working very hard to get the word out there," Ms. Motter said. "I think we are making inroads."

Among 49 midsize metro areas with 560,000 to 1.45 million residents ranked by the American Heart Association, Salt Lake City was named the most heart-friendly city. Honolulu; Colorado Springs; Rochester, N.Y., and Albuquerque, N.M., rounded out the top five most heart-friendly midsized metro areas.

The Birmingham-Hoover area in Alabama was ranked the least heart-friendly among the mid-ize metro areas, followed by Lakeland, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; Lousville, Ky.-Ind., and Toledo, according to the association.

Three other midsize metro areas in Ohio all ranked higher than Toledo, which was 45th. Dayton ranked 35th; Akron was 36th, and Youngstown-Warren-Boardman in Ohio and Pennsylvania ranked 41st in the American Heart Association study.

The American Heart Association analyzed 22 factors for 200 metro areas, which were then divided into three groups by size.

Toledo received the worst marks for having high rates of cardiac-related deaths, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, stress, fast food outlets per capita, unhealthy eating, and lack of exercise.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:


or 419-724-6087.

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