America’s Heart Health Needs Improvement
Reported January 2, 2012
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – America’s heart and blood vessel health is sub-par,
according to data from the American Heart Association.
The update provides insight into our less than ideal cardiovascular health. For
example, obesity continues to be a major problem for many Americans. More than
67 percent of U.S. adults and 31.7 percent of children are overweight or obese.
Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of obesity in children has increased from
4 percent to more than 20 percent.
The American Heart Association defines ideal cardiovascular health based on
seven health factors: smoking status, weight, physical activity, healthy diet,
cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting glucose levels, as well as the absence
of a diagnosis of heart or blood vessel disease.
Based on that definition, the new data shows that 94 percent of U.S. adults have
at least one and 38 percent have at least three of the seven factors at "poor"
levels. Half of U.S. children 12 to 19 years old meet four or fewer criteria for
ideal cardiovascular health.
Between 1971 and 2004, our average calorie consumption has increased by 22
percent in women (from 1,542 to 1,886 kcal/d) and by 10 percent in men (from
2,450 to 2,693 kcal/d). Many of these increased calories come from consuming
more carbohydrates, particularly starches, refined grains and sugars; larger
portion sizes and calories per meal as well as consuming more sugar-sweetened
beverages, snacks, commercially prepared meals (especially fast food) and
Burning those calories is also an increasing challenge – 33 percent of adults
engage in no aerobic leisure-time physical activity. Furthermore, in 2009, among
adolescents in grades nine through 12, 29.9 percent of girls and 17 percent of
boys had not engaged in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity —
the recommended amount for good health — even once in the previous seven days.
There is some good news in the update -- the death rate from cardiovascular
diseases (CVD -- all diseases of the heart and blood vessels) fell 30.6 percent
from 1998 to 2008, possibly due to better treatments for heart attacks,
congestive heart failure and other acute conditions.
The stroke death rate fell 34.8 percent during that time period, dropping it
from the third to the fourth leading cause of death. While the drop in ranking
is mostly driven by decreases in the number of stroke deaths, likely due to
better treatment options for acute stroke, reclassifying some respiratory
diseases into one category also played a role.
Unfortunately, other statistics in the update illustrate America's continued
cardiovascular disease burden. Cardiovascular diseases accounted for one in
every three deaths in the United States in 2008; more than 2,200 Americans die
of cardiovascular diseases every day ? an average of one death every 39 seconds.
The cost of cardiovascular care and treatment increased over $11 billion from
2007 to 2008. The direct and indirect cost of CVD and stroke in the United State
for 2008 was an estimated $297.7 billion.
"By monitoring health, as well as disease, the update provides information
essential to public health initiatives, patient care and for people to take
personal responsibility for their health ? and for their lives," Véronique L.
Roger, M.D, M.P.H., lead author of the update and professor of medicine and
epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., was
quoted as saying.
The American Heart Association has set a goal for America — to improve the
cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and reduce deaths from
cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020. "If we're to reach
this goal, we'll need to engage every segment of the population to focus on
improved health behaviors," Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., an author of the
statistical update and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine,
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, was quoted as
"In particular, more children, adolescents and young adults will need to learn
how to improve and preserve their ideal levels of health factors and health
behaviors into older ages. Moving people who are at poor health to make small
changes in their behavior and reach intermediate health is a step in the right
direction that can make a big difference," said Lloyd-Jones.
SOURCE: Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, published online