03/29/2014 08:55 am ET

Heart Attack Death Rate Higher In The South, Study Shows

Classix via Getty Images

Heart attack survival rates are worse in the South than in other parts of the U.S., according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found that the rate of deaths in the hospital from heart attack was highest in the South, particularly among African Americans and Hispanics.

The study was presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology; because the findings have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be considered preliminary.

Data from 12.9 million heart attack cases that occurred between 2000 and 2010 were examined from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. The researchers found that overall, deaths from heart attacks declined over this 10-year period.

The heart attack death rate was highest in the South, followed by the Midwest and Northeast. The West had the lowest heart attack death rate.

African Americans living in the South had a 50 percent higher risk of dying from heart attack compared with white people in the South, while Hispanics living in the South had a 15 percent higher risk of dying from heart attack relative to white people in the South.

People living in the South were also more likely to have other health risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and obesity.

Death from heart attack isn't the only health risk people in the South may face. Other research has shown that people living in the "Stroke Belt" -- which includes Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Mississippi -- have an increased risk of stroke, as well as cognitive decline.