Few Have Ideal Heart Health

Cardiovascular health standards met by few individuals

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The American Heart Association has established standards for ideal heart health, including maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure and cholesterol, and giving up smoking.

However, a recent review has found that few Americans are actually meeting all of the standards of ideal cardiovascular health.

Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, MSc, a lead researcher from the Division of Cardiovascular Disease at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, found that among study participants, ideal cardiovascular health was rare.

"Do not smoke. "

In order to have ideal heart health individuals must meet all of the American Heart Association's ideal health factors. The risk of cardiovascular death is increased with each factor a person fails to meet.

The agency's recommendations include 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise, blood pressure no higher than 120/80 mm/Hg, cholesterol that is less than 200 mg/dL, a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 and fasting blood glucose lower than 100 mg/dL.

In addition, they should follow key components of a healthy diet including more than four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables daily, three daily servings of fiber-rich whole grains, and eat fish, preferably the oily variety, at least twice a week. Individuals also should eat a diet low in sodium and sugar-sweetened beverages.

During the study researchers performed a comprehensive analysis of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study to determine the prevalence of ideal cardiovascular health as defined by the American Heart Association. That trial followed 11,993 patients, most of whom were men, for  nearly 12 years, concluding in 1999.

During the follow-up period, of the 305 patients who died, 70 participants died from cardiovascular disease and 127 died from cancer. Investigators found that only 0.2 percent of study participants had met all seven of the ideal factors.

After adjustments for age gender and other factors, researchers found the risk of cardiovascular death was 55 percent lower in patients who met at least three factors and 63 percent lower in individuals who met at least five factors compared to those who met two or fewer.

Since that study, the American Heart Association has proposed the seven factors be considered the new definition of cardiovascular health.

The organization also set a goal of  reducing cardiovascular mortality by 20 percent by 2020, in part by increasing awareness of the seven factors and promoting heart-healthy behaviors.

"The challenges ahead of us are immense, and the responsibility to prevent a reversal of the favorable trends in cardiovascular disease should be shared among individuals, scientists, leaders in public policy, and society as a whole," said Dr. Lopez-Jimenez.

"The ultimate victory against cardiovascular disease will come when personal accountability, effective primary care practices, public policy, population-based interventions, and universal health care work in concert."

The review was recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 3, 2012
Last Updated:
October 5, 2012