ATLANTA -- West Virginia and Kentucky have the nation's highest levels of heart disease, according to a first-of-its-kind study released by US health officials yesterday.
The new research is the first to look at what percentage of people in each state have survived heart attacks or live with other cardiac problems.
It found that states in the Southeast and Southwest had the highest rates of heart disease . Colorado and the District of Columbia had the lowest percentages. Massachusetts ' rate was slightly better than the national average.
The findings line up well with previous, state-specific reports about heart disease death rates, obesity, and other risk factors, said Wayne Rosamond, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina who chairs a statistics committee for the American Heart Association.
But he called the study "very important. It confirms what we know about regional differences in the burden of disease."
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the findings in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
CDC researchers drew their data from a 2005 telephone survey of 356,112 US adults in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
The findings: For the nation , roughly 4 percent had a heart attack, angina, or coronary heart disease, and 6.5 percent reported one of those conditions.
In Massachusetts, 4 percent had suffered a heart attack and 3.8 percent had angina or coronary heart disease; 5.7 percent had one of those conditions.
Stephen Smith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.