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Healthy Targets Most Americans Miss
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
How many of the AHA's recommendations do you meet?