Objective: To evaluate the trends in cardiovascular, ischemic heart disease (IHD), stroke, and heart failure mortality in the stroke belt in comparison with the rest of the United States. Patients and Methods: We evaluated the nationwide mortality data of all Americans from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database from 1999 to 2018. Cause-specific deaths were identified in the stroke belt and nonstroke belt populations using International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision codes. The relative percentage gap was estimated as the absolute difference computed relative to nonstroke belt mortality. Piecewise linear regression and age-period-cohort modeling were used to assess, respectively, the trends and to forecast mortality across the 2 regions. Results: The cardiovascular mortality rate (per 100,000 persons) was 288.3 (95% CI, 288.0 to 288.6; 3,684,273 deaths) in the stroke belt region and 251.2 (95% CI, 251.0 to 251.3; 13,296,164 deaths) in the nonstroke belt region. In the stroke belt region, age-adjusted mortality rates due to all cardiovascular causes (average annual percentage change [AAPC] in mortality rates, −2.4; 95% CI, −2.8 to −2.0), IHD (AAPC, −3.8; 95% CI, −4.2 to −3.5), and stroke (AAPC, −2.8; 95% CI, −3.4 to −2.1) declined from 1999 to 2018. A similar decline in cardiovascular (AAPC, −2.5; 95% CI, −3.0 to −2.0), IHD (AAPC, −4.0; 95% CI, −4.3 to −3.7), and stroke (AAPC, −2.9; 95% CI, −3.2 to −2.2) mortality was seen in the nonstroke belt region. There was no overall change in heart failure mortality in both regions (PAAPC>.05). The cardiovascular mortality gap was 11.8% in 1999 and 15.9% in 2018, with a modest reduction in absolute mortality rate difference (~7 deaths per 100,000 persons). These patterns were consistent across subgroups of age, sex, race, and urbanization status. An estimated 101,953 additional cardiovascular deaths need to be prevented from 2020 to 2025 in the stroke belt to ameliorate the gap between the 2 regions. Conclusion: Despite the overall decline, substantial geographic disparities in cardiovascular mortality persist. Novel approaches are needed to attenuate the long-standing geographic inequalities in cardiovascular mortality in the United States, which are projected to increase.
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