If you're trying to stay away from a heart attack, federal health researchers say your chances are best out West.

Hawaii's rate of death from heart disease is barely half the rate in New York, which reports three such deaths per 1,000 residents per year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Thursday.After Hawaii, rounding out the healthiest-heart list are New Mexico, Utah, Alaska and Idaho.

The CDC's findings, from a study of heart disease deaths in 1986, the latest year available, mark a continuation of previously reported trends in coronary mortality. Also continuing is a trend with heart disease deaths going down, while hospitalizations for heart disease are rising, the Atlanta-based agency said in its weekly report.

The nation in 1986 recorded 593,111 deaths from coronary heart disease, chiefly heart attacks and other blocked-artery heart problems, accounting for 28 percent of all deaths in the United States, the CDC said.

By comparison, cancer, the nation's No. 2 killer, took 466,000 lives in 1986.

The CDC study found the highest rate of heart disease deaths in New York state, which recorded 58,473 such deaths, or 303 per 100,000 residents. The other states in the top five were all in the Northeast or the northern Midwest: Michigan, with a rate of 299 heart disease deaths per 100,000; Rhode Island, 284; New Jersey, 278; and Illinois, 274.

The national rate was 246 heart disease deaths per 100,000 Americans.

Hawaii had the lowest rate of heart disease deaths, with 1,403, or 166 per 100,000. Next up the list were four other western states: New Mexico, 184; Utah, 189; Alaska, 190; and Idaho, 190.

CDC researchers say people in more populous areas are more likely to have inactive lifestyles - holding desk jobs, riding instead of walking - which can contribute to the risk of heart attack or heart disease.

"We really don't know what the reason is," said Dr. Robert Hahn, a CDC researcher. "We suspect some of the risk factors for heart disease may be found more commonly in those regions."

The CDC also reported Thursday that while deaths from heart disease have declined 20 percent since 1968, the rate of hospitalization from heart disease has risen.

Among men, the hospitalization rate for heart disease was 1,066 per 100,000 nationwide in 1986, up from 784 in 1970. Among women, the rate was 718 in 1986, up from 570 in 1970. Men are consistently hospitalized for heart disease at a rate 50 percent higher than women.

The decrease in deaths from heart disease probably represents "diminishing incidence," but with medical advances, more heart disease patients than ever before seem to be getting hospital treatment, said the CDC's Dr. Richard M. Rothenberg.

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CHART

Here is a listing of mortality rates in Western states from coronary heart disease:

Alaska, 345 deaths, 190 per 100,000, 48th.

Arizona, 6,582, 207, 38th.

California, 55,673, 229, 29th.

Colorado, 5,091, 201, 41st.

Hawaii, 1,403, 166, 51st.

Idaho, 1,708, 190, 47th.

Montana, 1,566, 195, 45th.

Nevada, 1,689, 233, 26th.

New Mexico, 2,150, 184, 50th.

Utah, 2,087, 189, 49th.

Wyoming, 695, 197, 44th.