Morning Rounds: Lowering your odds of dying from heart disease, stroke

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found of the 800,000 Americans who die from heart disease and stroke each year, 200,000 of those deaths could have been prevented.

"What is so frustrating about that statistic to doctors like me is that it's so easily preventable," says CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage blood vessels and in turn harm the heart and other organ symptoms. It is a major cause of coronary artery disease and strokes. Risk factors include eating a diet high in sodium, smoking and not exercising.

"If you see a doctor, it's really not that hard to treat high blood pressure," according to LaPook.

Access to doctors is why seniors over 65 -- who can enroll in Medicare -- fared better than adults aged 35 to 54 when it came to preventable mortality, LaPook points out.

A doctor can help get you on track to lifestyle changes and if necessary, prescribe blood pressure medications. Regular checkups are important, he said, because high blood pressure often won't show symptoms.

A study published Sept. 4 in JAMA found of 58,000 people with high blood pressure, almost half were not aware of their diagnosis..

"You need that very objective person in your life -- a doctor who can look you straight in the eye and say, 'do you want to become a statistic?'" says LaPook.

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