Union City has an ‘epidemic of cardiac disease’

man wearing polo shirt holding left chest

UNION CITY, Calif. — A comprehensive study of the Tri-City area’s health landscape has revealed a disturbing trend: the rates of Union City residents dying from heart attacks, strokes and complications from high blood pressure have been steadily increasing.

The 2023 Community Health Needs Assessment, conducted by the Washington Hospital Healthcare System every three years, found that between 2013 and 2020, Union City residents saw a 30% increase in stroke-related deaths, a 58.8% rise in fatalities from heart attacks and a 62.7% increase in deaths attributed to complications from high blood pressure. Union City residents also had more emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths resulting from stroke, hypertension and heart failure than the rest of the Tri-City area and the county.

Angus Cochran, the health system’s chief of community support services, called it an epidemic at the Newark City Council meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9.

“We’re definitely going to have to spend a lot of time up in Union City and figure out what has happened in the last three years that has contributed to … an epidemic of cardiac disease essentially,” Cochran told the council.

Cardiovascular diseases encompass a range of disorders impacting the heart and blood vessels. Heart attacks and strokes typically arise from blockages that stop blood from reaching the heart or brain. They are the leading cause of death both in the U.S. and worldwide, claiming 877,500 lives domestically and 17.9 million lives globally every year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity as major risk factors.

Various social determinants of health also factor in. Research on adverse childhood experiences, which includes abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, indicates that the more of these experiences a person has in childhood, the greater their lifelong risk for suicide, problematic substance use and health issues like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Between 2016 and 2019 in Alameda County, 46.7% of children were reported by their parents to have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience; 13.5% had two or more.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.

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