Nearly every American has at least one risk factor for heart disease, and it’s easy to see why: Women are eating 22 percent more than they did in 1971 and men are eating 10 percent more, the American Heart Association said on Thursday. At the same time, Americans aren't exercising as much as they should.
"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," said Véronique Roger, a Mayo Clinic professor and who led the study published Thursday in Circulation.
An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults — 94 percent — have “poor” levels of at least one of seven major heart health factors, the Heart Association said in a statement. Thirty-eight percent of Americans “have at least three of the seven factors at ‘poor’ levels,” and half of adolescents between ages 12 and 19 “meet four or fewer criteria for ideal cardiovascular health,” it said.
The seven health factors are: smoking, weight, physical activity, healthy diet, cholesterol, blood-pressure and blood-sugar levels.
Roger's team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which shows that that 33.5 percent of U.S. adults, or 76 million, have high blood pressure. More than 21 percent of men still smoke, and 15 percent have high cholesterol.
Women now eat on average 1,886 calories each day, compared to 1,542 in 1971, while men eat 2,693 calories a day, compared to 2,450 in 1971. Not only are Americans eating more, they’re eating more unhealthy items: Many of the additional calories come from sugary beverages and high-calorie foods, Roger's team said.
Meanwhile, a third of adults don’t exercise at all, and exercise rates among adolescents are less than ideal, report found. Today, 67 percent of American adults and 31.7 percent of American children are overweight or obese.
Between 2007 and 2008 alone, the cost of cardiovascular care and treatment jumped by more than $11 billion, the Heart Association said. And heart disease remains the No. 1 killer in the United States.
"The total direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease and stroke in the United States for 2008 is estimated to be $297.7 billion," the report states. "This figure includes health expenditures (direct costs, which include the cost of physicians and other professionals, hospital services, prescribed medications, home health care, and other medical durables) and lost productivity resulting from mortality (indirect costs)." To compare, cancer, the No 2. killer, cost $228 billion.
There is some good news: Fewer Americans are dying from heart disease and stroke. The death rate from cardiovascular diseases fell by roughly 30 percent the past decade, according to the report ― likely due to better treatments.
“Cardiovascular diseases accounted for one in every three deaths in the United States in 2008,” the Heart Association said. “More than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases every day ― an average of one death every 39 seconds.”
And the future isn't looking too good ― nearly a third of children are overweight or obese.
"Over the past three decades, the prevalence of obesity in children 6 to 11 years of age has increased from 4 percent to 20 percent," the report reads.