Heart health a rare commodity

U. PITTSBURGH (US) — Of more than 1,900 people recently evaluated for heart health, only one met the definition of ideal cardiovascular health.

Ideal cardiovascular health as defined by the American Heart Association is the combination of seven factors: nonsmoking, a body mass index less than 25, goal-level physical activity, healthy diet, untreated cholesterol below 200, blood pressure below 120/80, and fasting blood sugar below 100.

“Of all the people we assessed, only one out of 1,900 could claim ideal heart health,” says Steven Reis, associate vice chancellor for clinical research at the University of Pittsburgh.

“This tells us that the current prevalence of heart health is extremely low, and that we have a great challenge ahead of us to attain the AHA’s aim of a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health rates by 2020.”

Details of the study appear in online in the journal Circulation.

As part of the Heart Strategies Concentrating on Risk Evaluation (Heart SCORE) study, 1,933 people ages 45 to 75 in Allegheny County were evaluated using surveys, physical exams, and blood tests.

Less than 10 percent met five or more criteria; 2 percent met the four heart-healthy behaviors; and 1.4 percent met all three heart-healthy factors.

After adjustment for age, sex, and income level, blacks had 82 percent lower odds than whites of meeting five or more criteria.

Change at the individual level, social and physical environment, policy and access to care, is needed to help people not only avoid heart disease, but also attain heart health, Reis says.

“Many of our study participants were overweight or obese, and that likely had a powerful influence on the other behaviors and factors,” he notes.

“Our next step is to analyze additional data to confirm this and, based on the results, try to develop a multifaceted approach to improve health. That could include identifying predictors of success or failure at adhering to the guidelines.”

Researchers from University of South Florida and Pontificia Universidad Cato´lica de Chile contributed to the study, that was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

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