American Heart Health Needs Improving

Stroke rate has dropped for Americans but cardiovascular health still needs a boost

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The number of strokes experienced by Americans is declining, but substantial heart health improvements are still needed as larger, higher calorie meals become more popular and obesity continues to rise.

The American Heart Association's new report “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2012” provides a detailed look into the health of Americans, which has fallen short of the organization's goals.

"Eat lean meats and plenty of fruits and vegetables to protect the heart."

Dr. Véronique L. Roger, lead author of the report and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, said that children, adolescents and young adults in particular need to find ways to improve and preserve ideal health factor levels as they age. He said motivating individuals in poor health to make even small changes to reach an intermediate level of health would be a large step in the right direction, and could make a substantial impact.

Cardiovascular health as defined by the American Heart Association is based on health factors including healthy diet, physical activity, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels and smoking status, as well as the absence of heart or blood vessel disease.

The report indicates that 94 percent of Americans have at least one risk factor based on the criteria above, and 38 percent have at least three. About half of U.S. children between the ages of 12 and 19 only meet four or less of the factors for identifying a healthy heart.

A major contributor is extra weight, with 67 percent of adults and 32 percent of children falling into the overweight or obese category. About 30 years ago only about 4 percent of children were obese.

In addition calorie consumption has increased by 22 percent in women from an average of 1,542 daily calories to 1,886, and by 10 percent in men from 2,450 calories a day to 2,693 calories. Much of that increase is attributed to eating more fast food, larger portion sizes and higher calorie foods. This is especially problematic since the report found that 33 percent of adults are not participating in aerobic physical activity.

A bright spot in the report was a decline in strokes by 30 percent between 1998 and 2008, possibly because of better treatment of acute heart conditions. The number of patients dying following a stroke was also reduced by 35 percent, prompting its drop from the third leading cause of death of the fourth. Part of that decrease was from reclassifying certain respiratory diseases.

Overall, the report revealed that cardiovascular disease was responsible for one out of every three deaths in the U.S., with more than 2,200 dying of heart disease every day. The average cost of the care between 2007 and 2008 came in at $11 billion with an estimated $298 billion in indirect costs.

The American Heart Association's goal is to improve the heart health of Americans by 20 percent, while also reducing the number who die from heart disease or stroke by 20 percent by 2030.

The report was published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2011
Last Updated:
December 21, 2011