Few Meet the Definition of Optimal Heart Health

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The outcome of a study published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation on February 14, 2010 has resulted in the dismal conclusion that only one in 1,933 Americans may be meeting the American Heart Association’s criteria for good heart health.

University of Pittsburgh vice chancellor for clinical research Steven E Reis, MD and his associates analyzed data from 1,933 men and women aged 45 to 75 who participated in the community-based Heart Strategies Concentrating on Risk Evaluation (Heart SCORE) study. Surveys, physical examinations and blood test results provided information concerning the presence of the following factors: not smoking, meeting physical activity and healthy diet goals, and having a body mass index lower than 25, untreated cholesterol level of less than 200, blood pressure of lower than 120/80 and fasting glucose below 100.

Only one participant met all seven criteria of ideal heart health and fewer than 10 percent of participants had five or more components. African-Americans had an 82 percent lower chance of having five or more components compared to subjects of European ancestry.

“Of all the people we assessed, only one out of 1,900 could claim ideal heart health,” stated Dr Reis, who is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh’s Cardiovascular Institute. “This tells us that the current prevalence of heart health is extremely low, and that we have a great challenge ahead of us to attain the AHA’s aim of a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health rates by 2020.”

“Many of our study participants were overweight or obese, and that likely had a powerful influence on the other behaviors and factors,” he observed. “Our next step is to analyze additional data to confirm this and, based on the results, try to develop a multifaceted approach to improve health. That could include identifying predictors of success or failure at adhering to the guidelines.”

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