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Healthy Targets Most Americans Miss

By +Carolyn Richardson on Apr 11, 2012 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

The American Heart Association suggests seven habits for a healthy heart. A new study shows a mere 1.2% of Americans meet all of their recommendations down from 2% between 1988 and 1994. The seven metrics include not smoking, being physically active, having normal blood pressure (under 120/80), healthy fasting blood-glucose levels (below 100), total cholesterol levels below 200, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet. Called Life's Simple 7, the recommendations are a part of their mission to improve Americans' cardiovascular health by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20% by 2020.

Staying Alive

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America. Following the AHA's recommendations could tack years onto your life. Specifically, the study showed people who met six of the seven criteria had a 76% lower risk of heart-related death and a 51% lower risk of all cause death than those who met one or fewer. The study also showed a lower risk of cancer in those who met more criteria than those who did not. The Journal of the American Medical Association studied almost 45,000 adults from 1988 to 2010, participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

What's Worse

Despite recent reports that the rate of obesity in America has stalled, the results show participants' lifestyle habits and vital statistics got worse during the study period. Not only did the prevalence of obesity in the group increase, but the number of people eating a healthy diet declined. Another notable trend saw an increase in abnormal fasting blood-glucose levels. On the other hand, those with healthy blood pressure and total cholesterol levels remained proportionately the same over the 12-year study. 

Get Moving

The bright side to the result is that more people are meeting the ideal level of physical activity. Those who engage in 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week increased by 4%. However, the percentage of people who are sedentary doubled from 16% to 32%. Physical activity is one of the most important aspects of the AHA's heart-healthy habits. The reason is it has a protective effect on developing heart disease. So says a new analysis of a cohort of studies covering over 650,000 total subjects. A search of 30 years worth of studies compared physical activity levels with participants who developed heart disease. The findings show a need for Americans to increase leisure time physical activity as well as occupational physical activity. Their results showed a high level of leisure time and moderate level of occupational physical activity reduces the overall risk of incident coronary heart disease and stroke among men and women by 20 to 30 percent and 10 to 20 percent, respectively. 

Other Priorities

Other than getting the ideal physical activity, meeting the other metrics means monitoring your health. Because most Americans may not be aware of their fasting blood glucose level, blood pressure, or cholesterol, it's essential to get tested so that you can see the improvements that healthy habits can have on your vital statistics. As you watch your numbers improve, doing the things you can change, i.e. stop smoking, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight, can add years to your life. Because you'll never be able to compare how many years, watching your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels will help you see quantifiable progress beyond the scale.

Your thoughts...

How many of the AHA's recommendations do you meet? 


Wow, did excellent in 4 out of 7. If I had quit smoking more than a year ago I would have gotten 5 of 7. Still working on lowering sodium and adding more fish to my diet. The 10 pounds I gained when I quit are mighty hard to lose, but I will get there!

2 years ago my score was 1 out of 7 only because I'm a non smoker.  Now, at the age of 45 my score is 7 out of 7.  It is never too late to start and oh what difference it has made!

Just using bacon as an example.  You could eat six strips of bacon a day and it still only equals 3.4 percent of the risk of a pack of cigarettes.

My doctor who is a health nut said you could gain 40 pounds of pure fat, and still not do as much damage to your body as smoking.  Not sure if he invented that ratio, or if he read it somewhere.

Presently 3 out of 7. Not good. 

I've never been "over-weight" per the old standard BMI* ratings and never really considered myself "unhealthy" but have been plagued with rising blood pressure, rising HgbC1, and lack of energy. My last blood work had me borderline diabetic & BP 140/80. Haven't smoked in 35 years thank God. So I know my issues are related to high salt intake, processes foods, and little or no exercise. The salt & no exercise affecting my BP and processed foods affecting my HgbC1.

Re-started seriously with CC in the beginning of March, counting calories, cut out added salt entirely, dumped the junk foods, and started exercising 30 minutes everyday. To date I have lost 8 of my 15 lb goal. I am really curious how these seemingly simple lifestyle changes will pan out with my next BP check & fasting blood work up in May. Aiming for 7 out of 7!

I don't know if there is such a thing as a healthy obesity or whether it's an oxymoron, or a matter of luck, time, or good genes.  At 61 I have been obese all my life despite the perennial yo yo dieting and weight fluctuations.  I have no issues with my heart, COPD, hypertension, cholesterol or pre-diabetes.  However, I also do not smoke, take any drugs except thyroid hormone as of recently, and I rarely drink alcohol other than a small glass of red wine a couple times year. 

I come from a long line of Italian cooks and caterers, so everything I eat or prepare is fresh and homemade. I would have to be literally starving before I would eat fast food, junk food, processed foods, or genetically altered foods.

The problem?  PORTION CONTROL and GRAZING. I eat too frequently, and I don't keep track of all the food I consume when I'm cooking meals for family and others.

The bottom line, however, is that health issues are ineveitable if I don't get some weight off. I am trying to stick to 3 light meals a day and one snack--nothing else in between, and I am cognizant now of my portions.  I use a particular set of bowls, plates, cups, and utensils so I know exactly how much I'm consuming. I also walk 1 or 2 miles a day now, and hopefully as my thyroid function improves, all this will help me reduce.

7/8. Down 50 lbs. Just another 50 and I'll be at normal weight. Thanks for the post!=3

not smoking, (ex-smoker! 3+ yrs now)  being physically active (all my life) , having normal blood pressure under 120/80 (always below avg.) , healthy fasting blood-glucose levels below 100 (sometimes hi here, but hereditary, not diet or weight related) , total cholesterol levels below 200 (ok here, but last time my LDL was too high, but again, not a diet or lack of exercise, more to do with genetics)  maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet (Always! I've weighed the same since i was about 12yrs old and i'm 48 now (same height too lol), and i've never been overweight) and love food - that is fruits, vegis, nuts, seeds, milk, lean meats, and never was a fast food eater, didn't grow up on the stuff.. too many in my family to afford it, a blessing in disguise. .. and of course love some fats too, especially chocolate!!! Tongue out


I'm at 6 out of 7.  My diet isn't quite as "healthy" as it probably should be but it is a lot better than it used to be.  I've have completely given up eating hamburgers made of beef (I eat turkey burgers only) and rarely allow myself to eat pizza (and I REALLY love pizza).

7/7 almost.....My BMI hovers right around 24-25. I feel great!

Original Post by: pekmezci77

I'm at 6 out of 7.  My diet isn't quite as "healthy" as it probably should be but it is a lot better than it used to be.  I've have completely given up eating hamburgers made of beef (I eat turkey burgers only) and rarely allow myself to eat pizza (and I REALLY love pizza).

Lean beef isn't bad if eaten moderately and pizza can be made healthy at home!


A year ago I was morbidly obese, inactive, and borderline diabetic blood sugar.


Now I'm 7/7!  I couldn't be happier with myself or my life!

6 out of 7. Weight is dropping, but I'm still overweight. Despite that, though, I've always had good cholesterol levels, and normal blood pressure.

i did excelent too 6 out of 7 but that  will never change my smoking 4packs a day and i love it

I am thrilled to say that I meet 7 out of 7 of the requirements!!  After 3 months of dedicated work through CC and P90X, I am at a healthy weight.  Even with hypoglycemia, my fasting blood sugar is always below 100.  Of course, I am not finished with my journey.  Hopefully, I will continue to improve my overall health as I continue to use this site and these forums.

Interesting how different everyone is. Some are very overweight, yet have no health issues. Others, like myself, only have to put on a few kgs to all of a sudden see rises in BP and Chol. At 67kg I was put on BP meds and cholesterol rose to 6.7. I've recently lost 8kg and no longer require the BP meds. Cholesterol is in the low 5s. Still too high, yes, but unfortunately it's genetic. I eat healthily, don't smoke, but only exercise moderately - this is something I CAN improve.

Original Post by: illing

i did excelent too 6 out of 7 but that  will never change my smoking 4packs a day and i love it

OMG if a pack didn't cost 11 bucks I would still be smoking too!

6 out of 7...and getting there on the healthy weight.  Just took second place in a 12-week weight loss challenge at work!

I have a 6 out of 7. I don't know my blood glucose levels, but I assume they are fine.  But I didn't want to say 7 out of 7 just in case.

Wow, I met 5 of the 7 criteria. I don't know my cholesterol level, but the last time it was checked, I would have met 6 of the criteria. Since I stopped drinking diet soda and started drinking more water I'm a lot closer to a healthy weight too.

A large part of the growth in NCDs is caused by unhealthy life styles. Addressing modifiable risks such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and harmful use of alcohol are among most effective interventions to keep people healthy and productive. Arginine vasopressin This includes a set of global targets for reducing risk factors.

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